Melissa joined GoRail in March 2019 after serving as a legislative staffer with the Senate of Pennsylvania where she worked to garner support for a variety of legislative priorities, acting as a liaison for policy issues with members of the General Assembly and state and local agencies. Previously, she served as campaign manager for a successful Pennsylvania Senate race.

Melissa began her professional journey as a staffer for a central Pennsylvania chamber of commerce and ended her tenure as president of the chamber’s foundation. A passionate individual determined to make a difference, she spent 13 years forging relationships and building grassroots support for downtown revitalization and community growth projects.

Melissa is a Pennsylvania native and received a B.S. in education from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.B.A. from Frostburg State University. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), PADI Certified Rescue Diver and also enjoys tennis, travel and spending time with family and friends — especially her Golden Retriever named Duffield. Melissa lives in Camp Hill, PA.

 

Weston McKee spent the first 16 years of his career running more than 40 political campaigns across the country before joining GoRail. He first cut his teeth in Missouri state politics as a director with the Senate Majority Fund, where he was also tasked with overseeing the strategic reorganization of the Missouri Republican Party. Weston ran his own polling and voter identification call center and helped to elect numerous officials, including two presidents pro tempore of the Senate, a lieutenant governor and a state auditor.

Weston then hit the road running congressional and gubernatorial races in Arkansas, Arizona and Ohio. He led Col. Martha McSally’s successful 2014 campaign, which was one of the most tightly contested elections in the country (AZ-2). He has also consulted for non-profit clients like the St. Louis Special School District, Missouri Hospital Association and Easter Seals Midwest. Weston lives with his wife in Austin, Texas. They enjoy taking their bulldog to the park and exploring all their city has to offer.

Nate Kaplan has been an active player on the political scene from coast to coast, with a background in local, state and federal elections. He served as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State Senate before working in Boston’s Trial Court system. At the age of 24, Kaplan ran for the office of state representative in his hometown in Central Massachusetts and after a landslide victory, he became the youngest candidate in that district’s history to receive a major party nomination. Kaplan’s passion for politics continued to thrive after he relocated to Los Angeles. He founded a 501c3 nonprofit, SeePolitical, to educate the electorate by producing and distributing unbiased animations to heighten civic awareness and explain the electoral process.

Kaplan received a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Southern California while working as a communications director, legislative director, and district director for the Los Angeles City Council, where he worked on issues of transportation, social policy, economic development, land use, public safety, sustainable cities, affordable housing, and policies to improve the quality of life for communities in California. As a seasoned public affairs professional, Kaplan is often invited to guest lecture and moderate panels on a host of public policy topics.

Betsy Cantwell oversees GoRail’s communications activities, including earned, digital and social media outreach, working to enhance and marry the organization’s online advocacy with its grassroots organizing. She previously served as the Assistant Director of public affairs for George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Her prior work has covered a breadth of communications arenas—from writing and designing publications to traditional media relations to video production.

Cantwell is a New Jersey native but has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for over a decade since earning a B.A. in political communication and an M.A. in global communication from George Washington. She enjoys trains, foreign policy and travel.

Curtis Sloan became Vice President of GoRail in 2013. He started with GoRail as a field organizer building support for freight rail and the CREATE Program in Illinois in 2004. During his time at GoRail, he has led policy development, overseen the field staff, implemented electronic advocacy capability and implemented the organization’s first digital media efforts. From 2010 to 2013, he was the Assistant Vice President for policy and communications at the Coalition Against Bigger trucks where he worked to defeat increases in truck size and weight proposed in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of MAP-21 and helped craft language eventually adopted by Congress to study the impacts of longer and heavier trucks.

Curtis was raised on a family farm in Northeast Kansas. He received a B.A. in Political Science and Communication Studies from the University of Kansas in 2001 and received his J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law in 2004. He worked on several state and local advocacy campaigns in Kansas and was admitted to the Kansas Bar in 2004. He resides on a houseboat in the Washington, DC, Channel.

Russ McGurk co-founded GoRail, then Growth Options for the 21st Century, in 2004 and helped develop the original strategic plan and core mission that have made GoRail pound-for-pound one of Washington’s most effective grassroots issue advocacy organizations. Appointed president in 2013, McGurk has driven an ongoing modernization of the organization’s field, data and communications systems, enabling GoRail to play a key role in a series of pivotal rail policy debates in Congress.

With over 30 years of management, policy and communications experience on Capitol Hill, in state government and political and issue campaigns, he believes deeply in the value of constituent input to creating sound public policy. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two children.

Emily Traiforos joined GoRail in March 2006 and oversees its operations in the Upper Midwest and Colorado. Prior to GoRail, she worked in the Strategic Planning and Development Office at an international non-profit in Washington, D.C. Traiforos has volunteered and worked on several political campaigns, interned in the U.S. Senate, and holds a B.S. in political science from Arizona State University.

Christy Sammon joined GoRail in May 2015. She has 10 years of experience in the governmental relations field. Previously, she served as the federal legislative affairs director at two trade associations. Sammon also spent many years as a professional fundraiser, leading campaigns for clients in higher education and the non-profit sector, as well as political candidates at every level. She is a Georgia native and earned a B.S. in political science from West Georgia College. Sammon and her husband Tom have been married for 25 years and have two grown sons, Steven and Daniel. She enjoys spending time with family, reading and travel.

Michael Gaynor manages the field staff and operations for GoRail. He brings two decades of political experience to his position, having served as a congressional staffer, political consultant, and public relations director to a national non-profit. Gaynor has taught campaign schools across the nation and consulted for numerous congressional and statewide campaigns, levies, and local municipal elections. He has assisted clients in the business, transportation, agriculture, and environmental sectors. A graduate of the University of Dayton, he also attended the RNC Campaign Management College. Gaynor and his wife, Elizabeth, have two sons, Nathaniel and Collin, and live in Columbus, Ohio.