Board of Directors

2024-2025 Board of Directors

Executive Board

Mary Rawls Whitby - President

Mary is currently employed by NCDOT in the Operations Program Management Unit. She has over 7 years of experience in pavement testing, analysis, and design. Mary is a graduate of NC State University and Meredith College. She welcomed a son in February. Mary is an avid Wolfpack fan and needlepointer. 

Elizabeth Phelps - President Elect 

Elizabeth is a structural engineer at VHB. She has over 8 years of experience in the industry and has been a member of WTS 6 of those years. She graduated from NC State with a B.S. in Civil Engineering-Structures. When she’s not at a WTS event, Elizabeth enjoys rock climbing, figure skating, and starting new crafts.

Liz Byrom - Secretary

Liz is a graduate of North Carolina State University (NCSU), where she earned her PhD, MCE and BS degrees in civil engineering. She is a senior engineer at Kittelson & Associates, Inc. with experience in various transportation engineering projects, including work in safety, design, planning and operations.  She has a passion for delivering clients safe, implementable projects. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, son and dog.

Sara Loukili - Treasurer 

Sara is a Civil Engineer specializing in roadway design, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering in 2017 from Clarkson university. With six years of expertise, she currently contributes significantly to STV, a leading engineering firm. Sara is passionate about creating roadways that foster community connectivity and economic growth. In her free time Sara enjoy hiking, traveling, and learning about different cultures through history and food.

Jessica Luther - Past President 

Jessica is a transportation analyst with VHB with a project development focus while drawing from her transportation design background to understand the bigger picture. She is a graduate of North Carolina State University where she earned her BS in Civil Engineering. Jessica enjoys cooking, karaoke, and trashy reality tv. She lives in Sanford with her husband, Will, two dogs, Baloo and Cameron, and two cats, Birdie and Biscuit. 

Directors at Large 

Catherine Peele

Catherine has worked for the N.C. Department of Transportation Ferry Division for nearly 10 years. During this time she has grown and advanced through the Division and is currently serving as the Planning and Development Manager and Interim Assistant Director of Marine & Facility Asset Management. 

Driven by a love for serving the communities of North Carolina, she takes pride in working with a diverse mix of NCDOT Units and local stakeholders to continuously improve processes and programs. Under her leadership the Ferry Division has grown its grant program, been designated a USDOT Marine Project, and has been awarded close to $6m just in its first few years. Catherine has worked to enhance the facility and marine asset management program to protect and maintain the ferry terminals and state channels and secure funding for future projects. She also leads a variety of initiatives and research studies, such as long-range strategic plans and ferry vessel electrification, that will help guide the Ferry Division into the future.

Catherine became a Certified Public Manager (CPM) in 2022 and she holds a bachelor's degree in Earth Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In addition to chairing the Transportation Research Board Ferry Committee (AW050) she is also a Board Member at Large for the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) NC Triangle Chapter. 

Michael Holder

Mike is the Vice President Transportation Services and Regional Transportation Business Line Manager for Gannett Fleming. In this executive role, Mike develops, leads, and manages initiatives and projects that include diverse scopes of planning, highway and bridge design, transportation program management, traffic engineering, and intelligent transportation system (ITS) deployment. He directs the design and deployment of technology for connected and automated vehicles, smart city technology, vehicle electrification, and the pursuit of design-build and public-private partnership (P3) opportunities. Leveraging his public and private sector design, operations, and maintenance experience, Mike provides expertise, leadership, and innovative solutions for projects across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S.

A former NCDOT Chief Engineer, Division of Highways, Mike brings the experience, dedication, and technical expertise that enabled him to successfully direct and manage the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and asset life cycle program of the second largest highway system in the United States.

Nilesh Surti

Nilesh Surti is a Professional Engineer and Certified Public Manager with 33 years of experience in the transportation industry. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University with a degree in Civil Engineering. Nilesh worked for the NCDOT for over 26 years with diverse roles including geotechnical design supervisor, project manager in Design-Build, and as the State Pavement Construction Engineer.

Nilesh has been in the private sector for over 6 years working with small to large firms building a transportation team for each one. He currently works for CONSOR Engineers as their Transportation Director for the East, helping to grow their design presence.

Away from engineering, Nilesh helps his wife with her culinary adventures and enjoys spending time with his three grown kids doing any activity. Every now and then, he has fun catching a college or pro football game.

Taruna Tayal 

As the Corporate Director of the Program Management Office for Technology at VHB, Taruna leads the charge in delivering cutting-edge transportation technology solutions to clients. Her expertise spans the realms of data analytics, geospatial technology, and innovation, with a focus on transportation planning and GIS applications. Taruna's keen interest lies in leveraging data analytics, streamlining workflows, automating processes, and applying GIS and innovative technologies to address transportation challenges. She has been instrumental in projects involving the development of reliability measures using probe data for project prioritization. In her role as a seasoned and results driven PMO Director, Taruna takes on the responsibility of overseeing and strategically managing project delivery. She ensures alignment with organizational objectives, optimizes resource utilization, and upholds a high standard of project governance. Taruna is deeply committed to driving efficiency and excellence in project management.

Outside of her corporate role, Taruna has been an influential figure within the WTS North Carolina Triangle Chapter for over two decades. Commencing her journey as Treasurer, she progressed through various leadership roles, culminating in her recent position as Immediate Past President. Notably, Taruna served as the fund-raising chair, successfully elevating corporate annual financial commitments from $6,500 to an impressive $35,000 during her tenure. Taruna's dedication to advancing the mission of WTS extends beyond the local chapter. Since 2022, she has taken on the role of WTS Southeast Council Committee Co-Chair, further exemplifying her commitment to fostering collaboration and driving impactful initiatives within the organization. Her extensive experience and achievements within WTS underscore her passion for promoting diversity and excellence in the transportation industry.