MAG program manager named woman of the year

Overseeing cattle operations on a family farm in Minnesota may seem far removed from leading efforts toward renewed transportation funding in Arizona, but succeeding in traditionally male-dominated careers is nothing new for Audra Koester Thomas.

Audra Koester Thomas

Ms. Koester Thomas, transportation planning program manager for the Maricopa Association of Governments, will be recognized as the WTS Phoenix Chapter’s Woman of the Year during a ceremony at the Elite Hangar in Scottsdale Saturday, March 23.

The Phoenix chapter selected Ms. Koester Thomas for her innovative work in prioritizing the future transportation needs of the Valley, according to a press release.

She is in charge of a study to identify the values and priorities for our region through a values mapping project. Of notable focus is a public survey she is facilitating to identify what common values drive Valley residents and how those values can be incorporated into future transportation planning.

Much of the region’s transportation revenue comes through Proposition 400, a half-cent sales tax for transportation that will expire in 2025, a release states.

Future funding for transportation infrastructure depends on the region’s ability to extend that funding before it expires. Before an extension proposal is put forward, MAG is in charge of developing the Regional Transportation Plan that serves as its foundation.

“Audra is actively employing a number of new methods for MAG to help develop the plan that will build the regional transportation system for the next 30 years,” MAG Executive Director Eric Anderson said in a prepared statement.

“Knowing that this plan will be based on comprehensive input from the public makes us confident that we will develop a system that best serves the residents of our region.”

While she is busy breaking through barriers in her own capacity, Ms. Koester Thomas also is committed to ensuring the success of other women. She serves as a WTS Mentor, in which she provides professional advice and support to other women in the transportation field.

She was raised on a farm near Northfield, Minnesota, where her family still raises cattle. She has a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Leadership and Development from Texas A&M University, with graduate degrees in Political Science and Public Administration from the University of Houston.

WTS is an international organization dedicated to the professional advancement of women in transportation. The acronym formally stands for Women’s Transportation Seminar, which was how it was named when it was founded in 1977, when women couldn’t get subsidized for association memberships unless they were educational.

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