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Early Years

A happy childhood doesn’t require anything more than a happy child. That’s exactly who Joseph was growing up a mile and 1/16th (his grandmother would proudly say) from his grandparents.

Joseph doesn’t remember his childhood as modest, though some might call it that. TV dinners, Little League, and the occasional trip to a second-hand store to buy clothes relayed only love, fun, and family pride to Joseph.

There was also plenty of hard work, resourcefulness, and a commitment to service that ran through the generations. His grandfather was chief engineer machinist on a tugboat in World War II. His grandmother was a pioneer of sustainability—long before the movement even had a name—stretching anything and everything into at least five or six re-uses. Joseph also learned from his grandparents that beer doesn’t have to be fancy to enjoy.

An early education in community organizing came from his father—a frequent author of letters to the local paper’s editor, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and, at one point, a vocal proponent for installing a traffic light at a dangerous intersection near his office building. Joseph eagerly tagged along with his dad, going door-to-door with homemade flyers to garner support for the traffic light, which ultimately stopped the intersection’s history of monthly fender benders. All because Joseph’s father stepped in, rolled up his sleeves, and worked to get the issue resolved.

From his mother, he learned compassion. When she was co-president of the PTA, they tried a bake-sale. Sadly, too few of the other parents had time or money to make the cakes, so his mother baked them all herself. This taught Joseph his earliest and most enduring life lesson: if you see a problem, fix it.

Among his grade school and junior teachers, two stand out — and continue to influence him today. In his sixth grade class, Mrs. Grevious, a NAACP chapter president and civil rights icon, relayed her experience of standing up for her rights in the face of violence during the ‘50s and ‘60s. She protested segregation at lunch counters, even when one proprietor struck her with the chains he used to block the seats. Her stories instilled and reinforced in Joseph his unshakable conviction to go out and fix the problems he sees.

A few years later, Mrs. Allen, Joseph’s ninth grade civics teacher, sparked his further interest in politics and community involvement. Joseph joined the Lincoln-Douglas debate club, which showed him the value in considering deeply both sides of an argument, and how to be clear and think critically about solving problems.

One day in high school, Joseph found that his spot on the basketball team had been suddenly revoked the day after try-outs. The principal called him in to notify him that he’d asked the coach to not select Joseph for the team, as he felt Joseph could better serve the school as a member of student government and the academic quiz bowl team. Despite his initial disappointment, Joseph realized later it was the right decision by his principal. By his senior year, when he became student council president, he made contributions to his school’s community that stand out as both innovative and effective to this day. 

One effort Joseph spearheaded aimed to address the high number of latchkey kids that arrived at school early each day—sometimes an hour before the classrooms were unlocked. In order to improve the lives and focus the attention of these early arrivers, Joseph received access to the school’s speaker system. He and the council created a program for the school’s earliest arriving students to make mixtapes with music of their choice, which were then blasted through the school’s hallways as they waited for classes to start.

That same year, for a fundraiser for the United Way, Joseph used competition and market forces in the form of a penny war to raise ten times the money the school had in previous years. The program was so successful that Joseph was asked to deliver a speech to the school board’s superintendent that played for an entire month on local access television. Needless to say, his proud community-organizer parents watched it a time or two!

A commitment to problem solving showed up early and often throughout Joseph’s youngest years, and laid the foundation for the lifetime of service that lay ahead of him.

West Point

West Point taught Joseph many things. He not only learned about himself as an engineer, soldier, and leader, but he learned a great deal about other people. He was surrounded by fellow cadets of every income level, color, creed, twang, class, race, and political belief. Like him, they believed in duty, and were willing to answer the call. They believed in their country and were willing to sacrifice for their nation, their community, and their friends and family. Joseph was moved and inspired by how the Army truly represents the nation it serves.

Joseph proved to be a good student, but West Point doesn’t allow students to get comfortable by only focusing on the subjects they enjoy, or the skills they’ve already mastered. West Point’s purpose is to prepare leaders to confront complex and demanding challenges, often at times of great danger. You could master everything else from poetry to calculus, but it wouldn’t be enough. You had to learn how to lead people with a wide range of skills and backgrounds to get things done.

This challenge presented itself to Joseph at a nationwide competition among engineering students. Joseph had the basic technical knowledge to achieve his project’s goal—mobilizing prohibitively heavy tanks to bases across the world—but West Point had given him something more. He knew how to identify and communicate both the problems and the solutions his project addressed. He knew how to mobilize facts, and he understood how to mobilize people. Those skills—identifying complex problems, communicating ideas to others, finding solutions—ended up being the winning formula. Joseph won first place in the competition. Along the way, he learned a valuable lesson in how to meet tough challenges and get things done.

This vital lesson, along with the leadership and role models Joseph encountered throughout his time at West Point, gave Joseph his first real glimpse of his own potential. This vision engrained in Joseph the importance of showing people an example of what is possible for them. As he puts it: People will be what they can see.

Early Army

If West Point gave Joseph an initial idea of his true potential as an engineer, soldier, and leader, it was in his earliest years of Army service that Joseph would push the limits of that potential. This was the time when Joseph really put “be all that you can be”—a slogan he took to heart—to the test.

After volunteering for air assault and airborne training, Joseph headed for Ranger School, the Army’s toughest program outside of war. Designed to provide intense training on just four hours of sleep and one meal per day, the school pushed Joseph to the limits of his own physical and emotional endurance.

It took two attempts, but Joseph made it through Ranger School, and he was on his way to his first official Army assignment at Fort Bliss in El Paso. In between training events, he was assigned to coordinating funeral affairs for Veterans at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery. There he would find more problems to be solved, and he would take it upon himself to fix them.

On the day of Joseph’s first funeral assignment, he learned that the service he’d be coordinating was scheduled for noon, along with two other services slated to take place at the exact same time. The problem, however, was that there was only one available bugle player and that meant that two of the grieving families would have to wait for their loved ones’ services to begin.

This idea did not sit well with Joseph, and he called the funeral office to suggest the service start times be staggered. After delivering a hard “no,” the services manager added that scheduling all three services for the same time was “just the way things are done.” Still not satisfied, Joseph pushed to speak to the funeral coordinator’s boss before being hung up on and promptly summoned to his own boss’ office.

After more than a few harsh words for Joseph, his Colonel told him that he actually appreciated what Joseph was trying to do, but that he had gone about it in the wrong way. This instilled in Joseph the determination to lead toward consensus when introducing new solutions that might disrupt the status quo or working to refresh “the ways things are done.”


Nothing in Joseph’s life has mattered more or been as rewarding as finding a true partner in his wife, Amy, and raising their three strong and accomplished daughters, Keaton, Hadley, and Piper. Joseph’s family is his greatest source of joy, strength, support, and life lessons he continues to learn to this day.

It all started in Dallas on his way to his first assignment in Fort Bliss, Texas. Joseph’s childhood friend, Mindy, had a sorority sister there named Amy, and Joseph jumped at the chance to get to know someone at his brand new post. Amy’s dad answered the phone when Joseph called from his Dallas hotel room to introduce himself shortly before hitting the road for West Texas. “We’ll see you at dinner,” his future father-in-law said before hanging up.

Joseph had no way of knowing that, when he arrived in El Paso and knocked on Amy’s door, his life would change instantly. He couldn’t have known that, when Amy answered the door, he’d be standing before the woman he’d go on to marry; the woman who he’d stand next to at barbeques as he transported babies in strollers, slings, and backpacks; and the woman who, each night for 14 long months while he was in Iraq, would only sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. because she knew that’s when the Army wouldn’t deliver bad news to your door.

It was impossible to know in that moment on Amy’s front porch, that the woman who answered the door would still be standing beside him, three kids and 23 years later, but Joseph had a hunch. He was immediately smitten, and in fact, shortly thereafter, wrote a letter to no one declaring Amy the woman he was going to marry one day. (And yes, he still has that letter.)

Through the decades, Amy has kept Joseph’s relentless energy focused, kept his priority on family, and reminded him that date night doesn’t include people from work.

It was Amy who ensured that Joseph was there for as much of his daughters’ upbringing as possible, prioritizing his participation in parenthood. And even though he might have forgone 30 minutes of sleep for a middle-of-the-night feeding when his girls were babies, that lesson of being present has meant Joseph has had a front row seat to countless magical moments in his daughters’ lives.

Keaton, Hadley, and Piper are all amazing—and amazingly different—young women.

Keaton, who’s in graduate school studying to be an accountant, is full of conviction and determination to make a difference.  She has always had a compass pointed true north knowing right and wrong and reminding her Dad when the two might disagree.

Hadley is incredibly effective at forging her own path. In middle school, she marched straight to the principal’s office when she missed cheerleading tryouts on account of her moving to a new school in Texas. She told her that the school’s policy of holding tryouts in the spring was unfair to Army brats who have just moved to town, and requested her fair shot at the squad. In an empty gym in front of just three people she’d never met serving as judges, Hadley performed her routine and made the team. Another Kopser seeing a problem and fixing it.

Piper, Joseph’s youngest, has creative talents that know no bounds. An outstanding young leader at school, she’s also a talented actress, artist, and singer. As Joseph likes to say, she’ll take any school project and make it cuter and more elaborate in less time than it takes other students to do the bare minimum.

Joseph considers the diversity of his family as a reflection of how all people bring different viewpoints to society, even when they come from the same parents.

His family has also instilled in Joseph the importance of building community. During those very first years back in El Paso and all throughout his career, the Kopser house was where Joseph’s Army buddies gathered—especially just before payday, when money was tight for everybody. The Kopsers would host pizza night, let the kids run wild, crack open some beers, and tell stories.

To this day, there are still many people in Joseph’s life who remember those gatherings years ago. They didn’t know it then, but Joseph and his family were building a community that would last a lifetime.

Kennedy School & Return to West Point

The lessons learned at West Point stayed with Joseph as he began his military service. He quickly earned a well deserved reputation as a strong, caring leader who got things done. Joseph now wanted to give back and to help prepare the next generation of leaders and he worked to find an opportunity for an assignment to the West Point faculty. That meant the demands of a top-ranked graduate school first. But what should he study and teach?

One day at Fort Hood, Joseph watched a crowd of higher-ups gathered at the gated entrance to the motor pool. The person in the front of a large gaggle of generals and colonels was a young civilian representing the Senate Armed Services Committee in Congress. At first, her leadership position in the group confused Joseph. Then he remembered his West Point classes in American Politics. This was an example of the role of government in national defense, and the separation of powers between civilian and military leadership. Joseph realized the path he should take. He would attend Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, followed by an assignment teaching American government and politics to a new generation of cadets at West Point.

At the Kennedy School, Joseph’s professors stressed the importance of understanding how leaders are developed. Mentorship came up again and again in the classroom lessons on government. For his masters thesis, Joseph explored the importance of mentorship in shaping the leaders of the future. He wrote that nobody is born a mayor or a general. Leadership must be cultivated. As he graduated from Harvard and returned to West Point as a professor, Joseph resolved to practice “pay-it-forward” mentorship.

Back at West Point, Joseph titled his first class “American Politics: the Motor Pool and You”, recounting that day at Fort Hood, Texas, when he learned that even the highest ranking General in the military answers to a civilian government. Students still remember Joseph as the professor who drove them to find a problem and fix it. Joseph was now passing the baton, paying it forward to the next generation of leaders and practicing his prefered leadership style. In his words, “When you reach the top of a wall, turn around and pull up the people behind you.”


Joseph’s years of teaching at West Point came against the backdrop of one of America’s greatest tragedies. After the attacks on the World Trade Center, Joseph’s desire to re-join his Army colleagues overseas became too strong to ignore. In the summer of 2004, he volunteered to leave West Point to go to Iraq and help with the elections that were slated for January of 2005.

Joseph first wrote about the realities of war during that first tour in Iraq, expressing concern that things weren’t going as well as hoped. Despite those concerns and with a desire to help get back on track, he volunteered to join another unit forming for an Iraq tour. Joseph was charged with helping to build the new unit from scratch, rotating between head of operations and chief of staff to introduce a brand new 1,100-person unit, inside 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry and 2nd Cavalry, 7th Regiments inside the 4th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry.

When the unit arrived in Iraq, they found their orders had changed. They were immediately re-routed from a small town outside of Baghdad to Mosul, where little logistical groundwork had been laid for the incoming unit. Answers for everything from where to get supplies to IT to medical support were hard to find. Joseph and his team again built the operation from scratch, handling all of the logistics and implementing an innovative check-in system through regular email with contractors and other in-country staff to establish and secure a US foothold.

To stay connected with everyday life of the Soldiers in his unit during his 14 months there, Joseph accompanied Soldiers on missions regularly. And while he was running behind-the-scenes operations, Joseph continued to seek out and solve the problems inherent in modern military deployment.

One night, Joseph encountered a soldier in a guard tower who was upset about the immense burden of responsibility placed upon him in his current role. Joseph inquired further, and learned that each night, in the no-man’s-land just beyond the base’s perimeter, dozens of children would roam no-man’s-land of cut tree stumps. Their parents, knowing US soldiers would not target children, would send them out to gather the firewood they could not gather for their families.

Heartbroken for both the kids and their parents, who were forced to endanger their kids in order to keep the families alive, Joseph went back to his office and sent out an email call to friends and family for donations of childrens’ coats, hats, and gloves. The response was overwhelming, and soldiers in his unit still remember the boxes stacked ceiling-high at the HQs that Joseph’s efforts collected for local children.

As cold as it can get in Iraq, it can also be dangerously hot, which brings its own set of challenges. When the air conditioning in one of the unit’s vehicles went down, Joseph couldn’t get a straight answer about what happened from the sergeant in charge of fixing the AC. Finally, with his troops facing another day of misery, Joseph ordered the sergeant to ride in the roasting vehicle every day until the AC was back up and running. It’s perhaps coincidence, but the vehicles were fixed the very next day.

Joseph’s 14 months in Iraq delivered many more problems to solve. From equipping new vehicles with machine guns to better arm soldiers, to winning equal hazard pay (and back pay) for combat engineers working alongside higher-paid bomb-defusing specialists, Joseph repeatedly took on challenges to protect US soldiers and develop and execute innovative solutions to a cumbersome and sometimes unresponsive system. His time serving overseas was the proving ground for Joseph’s credo: when you see a problem, fix it.


Upon his return from Iraq, the Army recognized the unique value in Joseph’s triple-threat background: policy experience from the Kennedy School and teaching at West Point, combat experience in Iraq, and his degree in aerospace engineering.

He was assigned to work alongside the Future Forces Integration Director in the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, where he went to work designing the Army of the future.

After frequent trips to the Pentagon to brief Army leaders on these future forces plans, Joseph was pulled up into the office of the Army’s Chief of Staff. There, he was responsible for helping to communicate not just the Army’s future plans, but also current status. This included communicating plans and strategy that informed President Obama’s seminal speech about the expansion of the Army’s work in Afghanistan in 2009.

Joseph spent two years at the Pentagon, and was at the table for a number of landmark decisions and turning-point moments. He was on the front line of advocating for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in favor of more inclusive policies and helped carefully craft the Army’s messaging and response to the tragedy at Fort Hood. He worked alongside the Army’s Chief of Staff as he drafted speeches and messaging to reassure Army families and soldiers deployed that their loved ones were safe at home.

One of the accomplishments Joseph is most proud of during his time at the Pentagon was his contribution to assisting in the early development of the Army’s office for Operational Energy. He was there in the early days, as the Pentagon was creating a new focus on reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels. At the Senate confirmation hearing of the Pentagon’s first-ever Director of Operational Energy, Joseph was in the audience to support the nominee, a woman he had known for years. You could say he was there from the start.

In the course of his responsibilities supporting the Army Chief of Staff, Joseph realized that the military could leverage its market force to do better on clean energy initiatives. Around the Clean Energy office, he was the go-to problem-solver, a role that, by this point in his life, had become a familiar one.

RideScout & Obama Champion of Change

The idea for RideScout began, as do many significant aspects of Joseph life, with a problem.

Upon returning from Iraq and starting work at the Pentagon, Joseph wanted to spend as much time as possible with his daughters. He realized that, although his commute to the Pentagon was relatively short, he spent at least 15 minutes each morning walking through the massive parking lot to his office building. The Pentagon’s bus stop, however, dropped employees off right at the building’s front door. Clearly, there was a trade-off to our transportation options.

When Joseph stood at as bus stop, he’d notice how many cars would drive by, all with Pentagon parking stickers, and only one person inside each vehicle. He began to analyze all the different options commuters had for optimizing their ride to work, saving time, money, and frustration while cutting the use of fossil fuels. Here was a problem that was staring him in the face each day, and Joseph knew there had to be a way to fix it. He began to develop an algorithm to derive maximum commuting efficiency among existing options.

While some people play golf in their spare time, Joseph chose to spend every free minute he had outside of his job and his family life transforming his efficient mobility idea into a reality. At Joseph’s Pentagon going away party in Virginia, his friend Craig Cummings overheard his idea for mobility optimization, and responded, “We need to turn that idea into a company!”

Craig secured the initial capital for RideScout, while Joseph set about learning everything he could about starting a company from scratch.

After leaving the Pentagon, Joseph returned to Texas and began mentoring future ROTC leaders at the University of Texas. One day, Joseph ventured over to the business school, and asked Dr. Johnny Butler, a Vietnam veteran and professor of entrepreneurship, if he could sit in the back and audit his class to learn how to build a business.

In Dr. Butler’s class, Joseph realized that many of the guiding principles of entrepreneurship mirrored those of the military, including the importance of teamwork, leadership, and communication. After a few weeks, Joseph called up Craig Cummings, and said “I think I can do this.”

The Austin Business Journal described the next phase of Joseph’s entrepreneurial journey as “building RideScout one beer at a time.” Joseph would traverse Austin, buying a beer or coffee for anyone who would sit down and share their lessons of entrepreneurship or thoughts about the city’s—and the country’s—broken transportation models.

In March of 2012, a year after he’d had his epiphany in Dr. Butler’s class, Joseph entered a pitch contest at South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin’s global innovation culture conference, presenting an early prototype of RideScout’s technology. He came in second place, and, full of momentum, continued full steam ahead on building the company.

What Joseph feels made RideScout a success was its focus on all the solutions greater mobility could bring communities. People were drawn to the idea of RideScout’s capacity to better connect people, improve transportation, and make cities cleaner along the way. It was a worthy cause, one that taught Joseph that a business could focus on people, planet, and profits all at the same time.

For his work on RideScout, Joseph won the Department of Transportation’s Data & Innovation Award in 2013, and was named a White House Champion of Change by President Obama the following year.

Although there was interest from several companies in acquiring or investing in RideScout, Joseph and his Board chose to sell the company to Daimler AG, parent company of Car2Go and Mercedes. They shared RideScout’s vision of changing the future of mobility for the betterment of society and could accelerate Joseph’s hope to improve mobility for communities world wide.

Since selling RideScout, Joseph’s mentored dozens of veterans in Austin, San Antonio, and around the US, one beer at a time. The experiences of building RideScout moved Joseph to later co-found The Bunker Texas. While the idea was pioneered in Chicago, Joseph thought the Bunker would thrive in Texas since it was designed to help veterans like himself navigate the language of entrepreneurship.

Mercedes to Today

Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes and Car2Go, shared RideScout’s commitment to the future of mobility. That made them the perfect company to acquire RideScout and partner with Joseph on his dreams of harnessing the power of mobility to connect and lift up society.

When Joseph arrived at Daimler after the sale of RideScout, he was tasked with spreading the message of mobility’s potential to transform communities and empower citizens. He built his presentation around RideScout’s core principle: if people can’t connect their home to their work safely and efficiently, they can’t improve their circumstances. In other words, ground mobility is a key to upward mobility, and society can be improved by better transportation options for all.

Over time, Joseph came to realize the impact politics has on all the issues around transportation, mobility, and the American Dream. And both the public and private sectors were confusing success in mobility with making money, as opposed to solving problems to benefit community.

As the political climate heated up and Donald Trump barreled toward the GOP nomination, Joseph grew increasingly vocal about the political issues he felt were contributing to the friction around equal access to mobility and other issues he believes are contrary to American values. It created some tensions in the C-suite, where vocal political opinion was frowned upon. And so, Joseph thought, maybe his time as a corporate executive had run its course.

The turning point came when Donald Trump was elected president and Joseph knew that stepping down from corporate life to get involved was far more important than keeping his job and keeping quiet.

Now Joseph is once again rolling up his sleeves and seeking to serve. In a country beleaguered by special interests, inequity, and a badly compromised political system, he’s spent a lifetime preparing to represent a district that shares his core commitment to leading by example while leaving no one behind. He’s already working to find solutions that make a difference, disrupt the status quo, fulfill the potential we all hold, and fix the problems threatening our country, our communities, and our families.