Press Release, Maryland Department of Transportation

Three transportation leaders recognized at December 4 ceremony

Hanover, Md. –Three Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) employees completed Leadership Maryland, a professional development program dedicated to building a better Maryland by harnessing the strength of its local business and community leaders. Leadership Maryland honored them and the entire Class of 2018 at its 26thannual graduation ceremony held December 4 at the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

“Connecting MDOT’s talented professionals with other leaders in the state brings us together so we can better connect Marylanders to life’s opportunities,” said Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn.

The three employees are Nimisha Sharma, director of the MDOT Office of Real Estate and Economic Development; Sonal Ram, director of the Office of Environmental Design for the MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA); and Rhashad T. Johnson, director of field operations for the MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA). The employees were chosen in a competitive process to be included in the group of 50chosen for the eight-month, hands-on learning program focused on the state’s most vital social, economic and environmental issues.

“As this year’s Leadership Maryland cohort completes its program, their journey as a graduate of our state’s finest organization of professionals begins,” said Leadership Maryland Board Chairman Dr. Memo F. Diriker ‘12, director of BEACON at Salisbury University. “Over the past eight months they have learned about our state, the critical issues it faces, and above all, themselves. On behalf of the Board, I congratulate each of them for completing this defining milestone and I look forward to seeing them apply these lessons to accomplish great things for our state.”

Following a two-day opening retreat, the class attended five intense two-day sessions, crossing the state and focusing on Maryland’s economic development, education, health and human services, criminal justice, the environment and multi-culturalism/diversity. More than 100 experts from business, government, education and the non-profit community served as panelists and guest speakers.

Ms. Sharma, a licensed architect, joined MDOT in 2012 to manage Transit Oriented Development projects in The Secretary’s Office of Real Estate and Economic Development. She was promoted to office director in 2017. Before joining MDOT, she served as an architect for various firms, offering engineering, architectural, planning, environmental and construction management services. The Ellicott City resident has 20 years of experience in the private and public sectors. She has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the BMS College of Engineering in Bangalore, India, and is a graduate of the Project Management Institute. She also holds a professional certification in Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design.

“Leadership Maryland is an exceptional program that provides opportunity to meet some of the most amazing and passionate leaders, visit some of the most amazing places in our state of Maryland and enhance one’s leadership skills like no other program,” Ms. Sharma said.

Ms. Ram joined MDOT SHA as a Transportation Engineer in 1996 and has dedicated 24 years to Water Resources Engineering for the agency.Her career encompasses environmental engineering, compliance, mitigation and stewardship. The Columbia resident completed her bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Gujarat University, India.She holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Maryland College Park.

“This has been an incredible, eye-opening experience being inspired by so many people across the State,” Ms. Ram said. “I was fortunate enough to be with a group of exceptional leaders and get a glimpse into the challenges we face across Maryland.”

Mr. Johnson has 25 years of public service experience. He joined MDOT MVA as a contractual employee in 1997 and was promoted to director of field operations in 2017. Prior to MDOT MVA, he served in the United States Navy, where he specialized in cryptologic communications, Morse code and computer science. He has studied at the University of Maryland and is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.The Frederick resident is a graduate of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) Leadership Academy.

“Leadership Maryland introduced me to progressive leaders and State officials that are doing meaningful work for Maryland citizens,” Mr. Johnson said. “These leaders shared different perspectives and innovative approaches to various challenges. Leadership Maryland gave me the opportunity to learn from my classmates which are some of the most dynamic leaders in the state. All of which will help me better serve the citizens of Maryland.”

Leadership Maryland’s first class graduated in 1993, and its alumni include more than 1,150 leaders from the state’s industries and regions. To learn more, call Leadership Maryland at 410-841-2101 or

The Maryland Department of Transportation is a customer-driven leader that delivers safe, sustainable, intelligent, and exceptional transportation solutions in order to connect its customers to life’s opportunities.