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People News: WSP, GATX, New York & Atlantic Railway, AECOM

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
From left to right: WSP New York District Lead Rebecca Ashton; GATX Independent Chair of the Board James B. Ream; NYA Director of Sales and Marketing John Gleeson; and AECOM Vide President of Government Relations and Transit Market Sector Lead Kristen Watson.

From left to right: WSP New York District Lead Rebecca Ashton; GATX Independent Chair of the Board James B. Ream; NYA Director of Sales and Marketing John Gleeson; and AECOM Vide President of Government Relations and Transit Market Sector Lead Kristen Watson.

WSP USA (WSP) appoints Rebecca Ashton New York District Lead. Also, GATX Corporation (GATX) names James B. Ream Independent Chair of the Board; the New York & Atlantic Railway (NYA) names John Gleeson Director of Sales and Marketing; and AECOM appoints Kristen Watson Vice President of Government Relations and Transit Market Sector Leader for its Canadian transportation business.


WSP announced Nov. 1 that Rebecca Ashton, previous COO for the firm’s U.S. Earth & Environment business, has been appointed New York District Lead. She succeeds Jerry Jannetti, who was promoted to the role of Southeast Region President.

In her new role, Ashton, who has been with WSP for 13 years, will “grow and strengthen the firm’s performance across business lines, collaborating with the firm’s New York teams and regional leadership to achieve strategic goals that will enhance both projects and communities throughout the district,” WSP said.

“Rebecca has more than earned this new role, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as she leads our largest U.S. district,” said WSP Northeast Region President Bernie McNeilly. “She brings energy, ideas, and technical and business acumen to this role, as well as exceptional experience and client satisfaction on key transportation, energy and environment projects that are critical to New York.”

Ashton served as Project Director for the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal Replacement project where she managed a multidisciplinary team during construction. She also served as New York District Energy Business Line Leader.

As COO for Earth & Environment, Ashton was “integral to integration of Golder and EarthCon into the firm, identifying operational improvement needs and coordinating building strike teams to implement system changes,” WSP said.

Ashton, who is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), is a graduate of Australia’s University of Sydney where she received a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and the University of Limerick where she received a master’s degree in project and program management.


GATX announced Nov. 1 that James B. Ream has been named as the company’s Independent Chair of its Board of Directors, effective immediately. He succeeds Brian A. Kenney, who retired as the company’s President and CEO in April 2022 and who has served on the Board as Non-Executive Chair for a transitional period ending Oct. 31, 2022. The board previously announced its intention to separate the Board Chair and CEO roles following the transitional period.

Ream, who has served as GATX’s Independent Lead Director for the past five years, brings “significant industry, strategic, financial and operational expertise to this position,” the company said. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President, Operations and Senior Vice President, Maintenance and Engineering at American Airlines. Previously, Ream served as President and CEO of ExpressJet Holdings, Inc., an operator of regional jets in North America; and he also held leadership roles at Continental Airlines and Evergreen International Aviation.

“Jim’s long history of leadership at various public companies, combined with over 40 years of experience in the transportation industry, makes him an ideal choice to serve as chair,” said GATX President and CEO Robert C. Lyons. “I look forward to continue partnering with Jim and the board to execute on our strategy to drive attractive long-term returns for our stakeholders.”

 “We are grateful to Brian for his tremendous leadership and for his 27 years of service to the Company. Because of his vision and dedication, GATX is recognized as the global leader in the full-service leasing of long-lived assets,” Lyons added.

“I am honored to serve as Chair of the GATX board,” Ream said. “On behalf of my fellow board members, I would like to thank Brian for his invaluable contributions and partnership over the years. Looking forward, I am excited to work with the board to support GATX in its next phase of growth.”


Glendale, Queens, N.Y.-based short line railroad NYA announced Nov. 1 that it has named veteran transportation manager John Gleeson as Director of Sales and Marketing, effective Oct. 17. He succeeds Charles Samul, who is retiring from the railroad early in 2023.

Gleeson comes to NYA with nearly 20 years of experience working on the customer and supplier side of the railroad industry. Most recently, he developed rail facilities at Arizona Beverages USA and led the inception of rail shipments out of the company’s Edison, N.J., production and distribution center.

In previous positions, Gleeson managed the tank-car fleet for Illinois-based chemical and automotive fluids producer Old World Industries and later supervised transportation services for railcar lessor GATX Corp.

A native of Chicago, Gleeson has a B.A. in communication from Loyola University, Chicago.

“I’m thrilled to be joining such a talented and dynamic team,” says Gleeson. “NYA’s culture is infectious. Everyone is highly motivated and pulling in the same direction. It is impossible not to get excited about working in this environment. I can’t wait to spend more time with all our shippers to see how we can continue to do progressively more.”

Eric Jakubowski, Vice President and COO of Chicago-based Anacostia Rail Holdings (ARH), the parent company of NYA, says Samul “will continue to work with Gleeson to support the transition, and he looks forward to the insights Gleeson will bring to NYA’s customer relationships.” 

 “John’s experience as a rail customer and equipment expert is an important element in the strategy of continuing to support entrepreneurial growth on our railroad. He understands supply chains and the critical steps necessary to initiate rail service,” said Jakubowski.

“We’re pleased John has joined us at NYA,” said NYA President James Bonner. “As we continue to grow traffic and positively impact this region, John’s efforts will complement the momentum and success Chuck has delivered over the past eight years.”

Outgoing Director of Sales and Marketing Chuck Samul noted, “John emerged as the clear choice from a talented group of applicants. I feel confident in turning over the job of developing new business and managing existing relationships with customers and our connecting rail partners.”


Infrastructure consulting firm AECOM announced Nov. 1 the appointment of Kirsten Watson as Vice President of Government Relations and Transit Market Sector Leader for its Canadian transportation business. Watson “brings a wealth of experience to this position,” most recently as Deputy CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the third largest transit agency in North America, AECOM said.

In her nearly 19 years at the TTC, Watson held numerous leadership roles in subway and bus operations, customer experience, human resources and employee relations. She was a key member of the leadership team responsible for the installation of Automatic Train Control (ATC) on Line 1, the implementation of the King Street streetcar right-of-way (ROW), and planning operations for the significant expansion of subway and light rail transit lines across the transit network.

“With her strong background in operations and service delivery across all modes of transit and firsthand knowledge of major transit expansions and capital programs, Kirsten is the ideal candidate for this role,” said Bruce McCuaig, Senior Vice President of AECOM’s Canadian transportation business. “We’re very pleased to bring her onboard as a key member of our leadership team and are thrilled by the immense and multifaceted expertise she will bring to our clients throughout Canada.”

In addition to her transit responsibilities, Watson will work across all business lines to “increase AECOM’s profile in Canada with its government partners and clients,” the company said. She will also “lead growth initiatives with transit agencies and service providers while supporting AECOM’s growth agenda in the global transit market.”

“I’ve always been very passionate about delivering safe, reliable and seamless journeys for transit riders. I’m really looking forward to bringing my knowledge and experience and applying it on a national and global scale,” said Watson. “AECOM’s Sustainable Legacies strategy and commitment to creating livable communities where all can prosper aligns perfectly with my personal values and long-term career goals, and I am thrilled to hit the ground running to bring value to the partners and public we serve.” Previously, Watson worked as a labor and employment lawyer with a Toronto law firm and led dispute resolution activities at the Ontario Ministry of Labor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Windsor. She is a long-term member of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), Greater Toronto Area chapter, where she is currently serving as Vice President and Northeast Region Council Representative.

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