DJ Stadtler to lead VPRA as executive director

April 9, 2021
Stadtler is a known leader among rail professionals and will work to deliver $3.7 billion in rail improvements throughout Virginia.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), established last year through commonwealth law and tasked with expanding and sustaining passenger and commuter rail service in Virginia, has a new executive director: Donald A. (DJ) Stadtler, Jr.

The VPRA Board will be assembling its team over the next 12 months and finding an executive director was a priority as the authority works to deliver on objectives included in the $3.7 billion Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative.

Amtrak, Virginia, Virginia Railway Express and CSX finalized agreements for the initiative at the end of March that will bring rail improvements throughout the commonwealth in the form of enhanced and expanded passenger rail service while maintaining vital connections provided by freight rail service.

Stadtler comes to his role at VPRA with a wealth of railroad experience. He first joined the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as a senior budget analyst before a brief stint with the Federal Aviation Administration. He returned to FRA as director, Office of Budget and has been working within the rail sector for the past 20 years. He served as deputy chief financial officer at FRA between 2006-2008 where he oversaw accounting, procurement and real estate, as well as managed and executed the department’s $1.5 billion budget.

Stadtler joined Amtrak in 2009 and was promoted throughout his tenure and most recently served as executive vice president, administration and chief administrative officer. He led administrative functions for the railroad overseeing human resources, labor relations, police and corporate security, real estate, stations and facilities, and procurement and logistics. He was also responsible for providing executive oversight for over 18,000 employees, operating more than 300 daily trains, and attracting and retaining loyal customers resulting in the growth of revenue and ridership.

“DJ Stadtler’s expertise includes operational excellence, strategic vision and extensive experience partnering with host railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “His leadership will create a great opportunity for the commonwealth to continue its focus on customer service, safety, and performance as we unlock the potential of rail in Virginia.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam offered his welcome to Stadtler and recognized the key role he will be playing in the VPRA and Virginia’s rail future.

“The work of the VPRA will be critical to expanding service, improving reliability and enhancing mobility—and ensuring it happens in an equitable, environmentally sustainable way,” said Gov. Northam.

The VPRA, while governed by a board consisting of governor-appointed members, functions as an independent political subdivision and works in collaboration with the Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).

“The executive director is accountable for all strategy, policy development and operations of the authority,” said Jennifer Mitchell, chair of the VPRA and director of DRPT. “The VPRA Board is very pleased to welcome DJ Stadtler, a demonstrated leader with the skills and ability to navigate the complex rail environment and mobilize the new authority.”

Stadtler will be charged with helping build the start-up authority, providing leadership for all operations, maintenance, capital programs, human resources, administrative and financial operations while maintaining agency-wide efficiency and safety.

“I have been involved in various aspects of Virginia passenger rail since its growth in 2009,” said Stadtler. “During my time at Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration, I have worked hand-in-hand with states, Congress, commuter railroads and freight railroads to deliver improved passenger rail service. I have a proven track record of delivering complex railroad projects within scope, budget and schedule and I am confident I can continue those successes in Virginia.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.

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Sept. 30, 2011