Saturday, July 13, 2024

From the Magazine: To Boca and Beyond

More than 100 years ago, Henry Flagler’s railway tied the east coast of Florida together from Jacksonville to Key West. What were once fledgling cities grew into powerhouses of commerce, nurtured by the connection provided by the East Coast Railway. Beginning in 2018, Brightline took Flagler’s legacy a step further by introducing the state’s first high-speed rail service, built upon the same railroad lines that first connected the state. For Ali Soule, continuing this legacy of connection is precisely what drew her to Brightline in the first place.

“There are very few projects that can change the way a region and ultimately a state are connected and operate and grow,” says Soule, who has been with Brightline since the beginning, when the train service was barely more than a concept. Ten years later, Brightline trains speed along the East Coast Railway from Miami to West Palm—stopping at a new Boca Raton station just a 10-minute walk from Mizner Park—and Soule is the company’s vice president of community relations, working with local communities to identify areas where Brightline can make a difference. As a Florida native from Winter Park, working for a company that has a mission to connect the state through high-speed rail is “the perfect job.”

“I wanted to be part of a project that would bring substantial benefits to my backyard,” says Soule, and “benefit people that I know on a regular basis, and Brightline does that.”

Soule has helped deliver several community initiatives to South Florida’s“backyard” during her time with Brightline, including promoting and partnering with 211, an organization focused on delivering mental health resources and crisis prevention to those in need. In 2020, Brightline worked with 211 and Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (a nonprofit dedicated to promoting rail safety) to bring a mobile barbershop to high-risk neighborhoods along the Brightline corridor. The “Buzz Box” offered free haircuts to anyone who took the rail safety pledge. “The way we looked at it is if you look good, you feel good,” says Soule. Last year, Brightline partnered with Animal Services to host a pet adoption drive on National Dog Day, another of the many opportunities she’s found at Brightline “to put a smile on people’s faces and connect with our community.”

Soule’s passion for transportation began somewhat by chance, after graduating from the University of Florida, when she took a job with a PR firm that specializes in transportation infrastructure development. As she continued to grow in the field, she couldn’t imagine herself doing anything else. She credits mentors during her college years for helping her to discover her passion; she now mentors students in South Florida universities to help them do the same.

“You need to find your passion,” says Soule, “because once you find your passion it makes your job or your career so much more exciting.” The most important piece of advice Soule says that she’s ever received, and one that she imparts on all of her mentees, is “if you don’t ask, you will not receive.”

Soule’s leadership in the local business community has earned her several accolades, including the 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Award by the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches and the 2019 PR Star of the Year from the Gold Coast Public Relations Council. She is currently a director on the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce board, providing valuable resources and networks to local businesses to help them achieve success.

“I want to make sure that the lessons and the time that were invested in me I can give back to other people and help them grow and reach whatever potential that they’re looking for,” says Soule.

2023 is shaping up to be a big year for Soule, with the birth of her first child (a daughter) and the opening of Brightline’s Orlando station not far from where her family lives. “I’m very excited for her to have her first Brightline ride,” says Soule. “I can take her up to visit my family still in Orlando, so there’s a lot to look forward to this year.”

This article is from the May/June 2023 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Tyler Childress
Tyler Childress
Tyler is the Web Editor and a contributing writer for Boca Raton magazine. He writes about food, entertainment and issues affecting South Florida. Send story tips to tyler@bocamag.com.

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