U.S. Federal Highway Administration Administrator Victor Mendez, right, poses with Cody Beers of WYDOT and Big John Smith at the Champions of Change event in Washington, D.C. (WYDOT)

(Wind River Reservation, Wyo.) – The transportation director for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes was one of 11 local heroes honored this month in Washington, D.C., by The White House as “Champions of Change” for exemplary leadership to ensure that transportation facilities, services, and jobs help individuals and their communities connect to 21st century opportunities.

John Smith received his award May 13 at The White House in Washington, D.C., from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

A White House press release says Smith’s “love for the people of Wind River has been instrumental in building relationships with tribal, local, county, state and federal partners to save lives.

“For the past 25 years, Big John Smith has served as the transportation director for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes’ Joint Business Council on the Wind River Reservation.  Big John is also the Rocky Mountain regional representative on the Tribal Transportation Committee, and the executive director of the Intertribal Transportation Association,” the news release states. “Big John has succeeded in improving the reservation’s transportation infrastructure (highways and bridges), and has led the effort to dramatically cut alcohol-involved crashes and fatalities on the Wind River Reservation.  He has worked with tribal leaders to toughen tribal laws to enhance seat belt compliance, and has led the effort to use positive messaging to educate drivers of all ages about the dangers of drinking and driving.”

Individuals honored as Champions of Change in transportation are leading the charge across the country building connectivity, strengthening transportation career pathways, and making connections between transportation and economic growth, according to The White House.

Across the federal government, there has been dedication to providing “ladders of opportunity” for all Americans, by investing in connecting communities to centers of employment, education, and services, and is calling for greater emphasis on those initiatives supporting this outcome.  Recent research has found that social mobility varies by geography, and poor transportation access is a factor preventing lower income Americans from gaining higher income levels than their parents. Transportation plays a critical role in connecting Americans and communities to economic opportunity through connectivity, job creation, and economic growth. Recognizing social mobility as a defining trait of America’s promise, access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation is critical.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Other U.S. Department of Transportation 2014 Champions of Change include: Josh Baker, general manager, Radford Transit, New River Valley Community Services, Blacksburg, VA;  Evelyn Blumenberg, professor and chair of Urban Planning, UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, Los Angeles, Calif.; Dan Burden, director of Innovation and Inspiration, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Port Townsend, Wash.; Anthony Chiarello, president and CEO, TOTE, Princeton, NJ; Greer Gillis, area manager of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Washington, DC; Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Berkeley, Calif.; Daphne Izer, founder, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Lisbon, Maine;  Flavio Leo, deputy director, Aviation Planning and Strategy, Massachusetts Port Authority, Newtown, Mass.; Susan Park Rani, president, Rani Engineering, Minneapolis, Minn.; and Wanda Vazquez, regional traffic safety liaison, Rincon Family Services, Chicago, Ill.

To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.”

The White House award is Smith’s second national award in two weeks. On April 27, he was one of 12 individuals and organizations chosen to receive the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Public Service Award, the agency’s top public service award that recognizes the tireless efforts people make to advance highway safety throughout the country. Smith received his public service award April 28 at the 32nd Annual Lifesavers Conference in Nashville.

“We celebrate the individuals and organizations honored today and their relentless commitment to saving lives and reducing injuries on roads in states, cities and towns all across our country,” said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman on April 28, who presented Smith with his award. “We appreciate their dedication and hard work in helping to improve traffic safety.”

 

–Wyoming Department of Transportation