UTUIA Officers and Board of Directors



Kenneth L. Laugel 

LUTC,CSA, CLTC                                                                                


North Olmsted, Ohio                                                     

Laugel, Ken_2.3x2.6


Mr. Laugel was born and raised in New Jersey as the son of a steelworker and proud union member.  His Grandfather worked on the railroad in the early 1920’s.  From these roots, he learned the values of hard work, loyalty, brotherhood and charity.  As the first college graduate in his family, receiving his BS in Business Management and Finance from the University of North Carolina,  he embarked on a 30 year career in the insurance industry.  He rose quickly within the ranks and won numerous awards for outstanding leadership and was quickly elevated into upper level management positions .  Mr. Laugel earned his LUTC, CSA and CLTC designations during this time. In the last decade, He has held top level executive positions where he honed the leadership and financial skills necessary to steer the UTUIA  toward increased growth and prosperity in the coming years. He is proud of his labor roots and even prouder that his career has taken him full circle back to serving union members and their families.  He is a member of the Fraternal Field Managers Association and the American Fraternal Alliance (AFA). Mr. Laugel is extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of the UTUIA and  looks  forward to leading the Association and building a solid foundation upon which the security and benefits of the UTUIA will be assured for many future generations of Transportation workers and their families.


Jeffrey A. Becker

Secretary and Treasurer

North Olmsted, OH



Mr. Becker is the Secretary and Treasurer of the United Transportation Union Insurance Association (UTUIA). He is responsible for the accounting, treasury, regulatory, investment, compensation, commission, and human resource areas of UTUIA.  He joined the UTUIA team on April 16, 2018, bringing extensive regulatory and insurance industry experience to support operations.  He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Accounting from Myers University (1998) and the Certified Financial Examiner designation (2006).  His professional career includes twelve years as an Insurance Examiner Supervisor and eighteen years overall as a regulatory financial examiner with the State of Ohio.  Prior to the state, his industry experience includes two years with a nationally recognized property/casualty insurer and ten years with Midwestern National Life Insurance Company where he held various financial and accounting positions.  Mr. Becker stays informed of insurance related matters by communications with the Ohio Department of Insurance, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and the American Fraternal Alliance.  Jeff is married with two adult children. He enjoys the outdoors, travel, golf, reading, fitness and seafood. 



Board of Directors:


John Previsich

Chairman of the Board

North Olmsted, Ohio

John Previsich

John Previsich is the president of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, formerly the United Transportation Union. He is a member of Local 31 in San Jose, Calif. Brother Previsich began his railroad career with Southern Pacific Transportation Company, where he commenced work as a train service operations employee in San Francisco, Calif. He later transferred to engine service and achieved certification as both a railroad conductor and locomotive engineer. Previsich started doing work as a local union officer in the mid-1980s. Thereafter, he moved into a system-wide position as a general chairperson in the early 1990s, followed by his election to international vice president in 2007. He was re-elected in 2011, elevated to the position of assistant president in 2012, and assumed the responsibilities of the general secretary and treasurer position on Jan. 1, 2013. He was elevated to the position of president effective Oct. 1, 2013, and was elected to the office at the SMART Transportation Division Convention in 2014. During the course of his career, Previsich has advocated on behalf of his members in mergers and consolidations in the rail and airline industries, 13(c) transactions, divestitures, national and local contract negotiations and countless arbitrations and mediations, securing and defending collective bargaining agreements on properties large and small. Having a special interest in transportation-industry safety issues, Previsich is the SMART Transportation Division representative on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee and has served on numerous subcommittees associated with RSAC. In addition, he is a cabinet-level appointee to the National Freight Advisory Committee, a group that reports directly to the secretary of transportation on MAP-21, a program charged with assisting in the development of administration policy on a national freight plan for the 21st century.


Jeremy Ferguson

Sparta, Michigan



 Mr. Ferguson is Vice President of SMART TD and a member of Local 313 in Grand Rapids, Mich.  After serving in the U.S. Army and attending college, he started railroading in 1994 as a conductor on CSX at Grand Rapids, Mich. He was promoted to engineer in 1995. Mr. Ferguson was elected local legislative representative in 1995; local chairperson in 1996, and secretary of the CSX/B&O General Committee, GO 049 in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2007.  He was elected second vice general chairperson in 2008 and first vice general chairperson in 2011. At the first SMART Transportation Division convention in 2014, Ferguson was elected to the position of vice president. Mr. Ferguson also served as special representative and organizer for the United Transportation Union starting in 1997. He is the father of two children and resides in Sparta, Michigan

John R. England

Rosemead, California

John England

Mr. England hired out on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (now part of BNSF Railway) in 1978, as a brakeman. He was promoted to fireman in 1979 and engineer in 1981. A member of Local 1674 (a Los Angeles-based local that represents engineers on the BNSF and all yard crafts on the Los Angeles Junction Railway), he served as Local Chairperson for engineers from 1987 to 2003 and Local Chairperson for both engineers and yardmen on LAJ from 1995 to 1998. He also has served as Local Legislative Representative from 1995 to 2013. He has held positions in the California State Legislative Board such as Chairman of the Board as well as Alternate State Director. John represented his local as local delegate at the 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007 UTU conventions. England was secretary to his General Committee, GO 020, from 1991 to 1995, Vice General Chairperson from 1995 to 2003, and General Chairperson from 2003 to 2013. He was elevated to the position of UTU International Second Alternate Vice President – West in October 2009. After being reelected to that office in 2011, he was elevated to the office of Transportation Division Vice President in January 2013 and was reelected to that position in 2014. Vice President England serves as the Confidential Close Call Reporting System representative for SMART for all railroads. He has experience in National Labor Relations Act bus properties. In October 2014 John became a member of the SMART General Executive Council as a General Vice President. John currently serves as a member of the Coordinated Bargaining Group in National Negotiations as well as several Rail Safety Advisory Committees. VP England has assignments with almost all class one railroads and many short lines. John has been married to his wife Percia for 38 years and has five children and four grandchildren.

John Risch

Washington, D.C.

John Risch


Mr.  Risch is the national legislative director of the SMART Transportation Division and has worked full-time in the Washington, D.C., office since 2009. There, he works on legislative, regulatory, safety and political issues. He was elected national legislative director in 2014. Risch is a former North Dakota State Legislative Director for the United Transportation Union, serving in that capacity from 1986 to 2009, and is a member of Local 1344 at Mandan, N.D. Risch began his railroad career on Burlington Northern Railroad, working in the track department for two summers while attending college. In the fall of 1978, he hired out in train service and in 1979, he entered engine service in what is now BNSF Railway. He is a long-time International officer, serving on the Executive Board from 1991 until 2009. Risch is a graduate of Bismarck State College and earned a bachelor’s degree in Labor Studies from Antioch University of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he studied collective bargaining, labor history, labor law, world labor movements and other issues related to labor. While serving as the North Dakota State Legislative Director, he testified hundreds of times at that state’s legislature. He was also appointed by the governor to the Education Action Commission and Occupational Therapy Board. He was appointed chairperson of the state’s Minimum Wage Commission twice, once by a Democratic labor commissioner and once by a Republican labor commissioner. In that role, he led efforts to raise the minimum wage and improve issues of the workplace, including extending minimum wage coverage to farm workers, something the federal law and most states exempt from coverage. In addition, Risch has testified before both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives’ committees representing transportation workers. Risch has attended nearly every North Dakota Democratic and Republican convention since 1986 and attended both the national Republican and Democratic conventions in 2012. Risch wrote a regular newspaper column for The Bismarck Tribune from 1991 until 1993, where he focused on labor, economic and tax issues. Risch, 56, has been married for 33 years to his wife, Kathi, and they have two adult children.

Independent Directors

Nicholas J. DiCicco Jr.

Longboat Key, Florida Nicholas J. DiCicco Jr., who has a Bachelor of Science degree from John Carroll University (1955), has been designated a Life Insurance Management and Research Association (LIMRA) Leadership Institute Fellow (LLIF), a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), and a Registered Principal with the National Association of Securities Dealers. Nick is the retired President and Chief Executive Officer of Midwestern National Life Insurance Company of Ohio, Midwestern Investment Corporation, Midwestern Insurance Servicing Agency and FuneralServices.com, Ltd. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of both the Life Insurance Management and Research Association (LIMRA) and the National Association of Life Companies (NALC). He is also a former member of the Board of Governors, Forum 500 of the American Council of Life Insurance (ACLI). He was Chairman of the 50th Anniversary Agency Management Conference of LIMRA. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Corporate Benefits Advisors, LLC.

Frank J. Riha, CPA

Aurora, Ohio Frank J. Riha, holding a Bachelor of Science degree from Kent State University (1962), is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), inactive, whose 30 years of experience have been concentrated on the areas of financial reporting and treasury. Frank spent most of his career in accounting and finance for life insurance companies, including as the Chief Financial Officer. He spent five years as an Insurance Examiner Supervisor with the State of Ohio Insurance Department, is a Life Management Institute Fellow, a Certified Financial Examiner, and a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants.

William J. Thompson

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio William J. Thompson, retired, a former Ohio State Legislative Director and conductor, has been elected to the United Transportation Union Insurance Association Board of Directors following his nomination to the post by the UTUIA board. He is a member of Local 792 at Cleveland, Ohio. Thompson, a member of the UTU Alumni Association, held the posts of assistant Ohio state legislative director and then state legislative director from 1981 through his retirement in 2002. He hired out with the Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad in 1961, before it was acquired by Norfolk & Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern), and was elected to posts of general chairperson, local chairperson and legislative representative of UTU predecessor Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Local 432.

Billy Ryan, Attorney

Memphis, Tennessee William “Billy” Ryan, who has a B.A. (History) from the University of Tennessee — Knoxville, and a J.D. (Law) from the University of Mississippi, is an attorney with Donati Law, PLLC, in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 2009, Mr. Ryan has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America in the specialty of Labor and Employment Law. And, in 2014, Mr. Ryan was recognized by Supers Lawyers magazine as one of the top 100 attorneys in Tennessee.