25 UNDER 40Written by Railway Age Staff
RAILWAY AGE, FEBRUARY 2023 ISSUE: Railway Age is proud to recognize 25 ‘Fast Trackers’ Under 40 in 2023.
Railway Age is honoring 25 “Fast Trackers” from a pool of strong nominations for this year’s 25 Under 40 awards program.
Established in 2016, the annual awards are presented to railroaders under the age of 40 in the United States, Canada and/or Mexico for making an impact in their respective fields or within their company.
This year’s honorees were selected from freight and passenger railroads; government entities; and the supplier, contractor and consultant communities. They were required to be under 40 as of Jan. 1, 2023, and were judged on criteria that included industry experience and education, leadership skills, industry contributions, and community service involvement.
“Once again, a strong, strong field of tremendous experience and variety across the depth and breadth of the railway industry across North America,” said Michigan State Center for Railway & Education Director Nick Little, who again served as program judge and selected the winning 25. (His biography is below.) “This year, I detected a shift away from technical expertise and data provision toward the ability to ask the right questions of the data. These are all very bright, capable and dedicated people.”
Michigan State Center for Railway Research & Education Director Nick Little
While in high school in Britain, Nick Little started his career with clerical and operating internships at Plymouth on British Rail’s Western Region in the early 1970s. He won a scholarship program with the British Railways Board that gave him a supply management degree plus training in all aspects of BR’s organization. Little then spent 15 years with BR in many locations, including Derby and London. In 1995, Little came to Michigan State University, initially for one year on loan to work on a research program, but he stayed to follow his passion of helping to develop future generations of railway industry expert managers and leaders with deep business knowledge and experience. He took charge of MSU’s Railway Management Certificate Program at the Broad College of Business in 2013.
Dr. Ananyo Banerjee, Principal Investigator II and Manager of NDE–Metallurgy Team, MxV Rail, a subsidiary of Association of American Railroads (AAR)
Dr. Ananyo Banerjee manages the ongoing AAR-funded research projects on rail performance, integrity and rolling contact fatigue mitigation. He has published more than 50 AAR technology digests, magazine articles, domestic and international conference papers, and articles in peer-reviewed journals, and his research work has been frequently referenced, quoted and discussed by other scholars in the field. In September 2017, Dr. Banerjee’s work was recognized by the Board of Directors of the International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA) when he was presented with the Oustanding Young Engineer Award. Dr. Banerjee loves to educate kindergarten- and elementary-age children about the basics of railroad engineering and safety on railroad tracks, and enjoys teaching students about physics to nurture their interests in STEM for future career interests. Dr. Banerjee’s research has a huge significance in the freight railroad industry and his goal is to “spearhead more challenging roles.”
Vance Batchelor, General Manager–Signal, North America, Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Company
An 18-year railroad veteran, Vance Batchelor got his start as a signal engineer, rising through the ranks to become General Manager–Signal North America at Progress Rail in 2016. In 2022, he added to his responsibilities the company’s Signal Wiring and Structures businesses. With the mandate of Positive Train Control (PTC), Progress Rail’s signal engineering business saw substantial growth—from roughly 30 people in 2009 to more than 100 in 2011. Batchelor was part of a team that streamlined the on-boarding and training processes for employees and subcontractors, allowing the company to keep up with customers’ aggressive project schedules. He was also part of a team that implemented new quality processes that helped to improve metrics by a factor of 10, minimizing changes that needed to be made in the field, preventing delays/cancellations in cutovers due to design errors, and ultimately reducing costs in design work through gains in efficiency. Through Batchelor’s leadership, Progress Rail was instrumental in helping its Class I customers meet their mandated deadlines for PTC. Batchelor has worked to develop new partnerships, extending the company’s reach into new markets, including transit, and growing the Class I market share; to improve the customer focus; to increase efficiency; and to develop the engineers around him. Outside of work, he serves as a Boy Scout troop leader.
Lucas Czerkawski, Trainmaster, Georgia & Florida Railway, LLC, OmniTRAX
Lucas Czerkawski ensures proper movement of freight to service 55 customers on 200 miles of track, and coordinates with Class I partners Norfolk Southern and CSX at four interchange points to reduce congestion. He has been assigned as a fuel champion every year to reduce fuel costs and manage usage on locomotives. In this role, he monitors locomotive use in Wi-Tronix and constantly seeks new ways to optimize trip plans and reduce fuel use. He was also assigned as Safety Champion in 2022 and 2023, where he is responsible for supervising 15 train and engine employees to ensure customer needs are fulfilled. Czerkawski started as a management trainee with NS and had no previous rail experience. Forced to adapt quickly and learn to manage railroaders with more than 30 years of experience, his humble attitude and respect for others has helped him thrive in this environment. In 2020, when Georgia & Florida Railway faced many challenges with manpower due to illness from COVID-19, Czerkawski, who holds a conductor certification, was able to work in train service when needed to ensure no customers ran out of product. Czerkawski’s goal is to become a General Manager and a locomotive engineer. He strives to work on safety measures and for work to be injury free. He achieved his state firefighter certifications and has served as a volunteer firefighter with Sumter County Fire Rescue since 2018.
Jeremy Dark, Director, Operations Performance, Greenbrier Rail Services
Jeremy Dark has contributed to the digitization and efficiency of the rail industry, and throughout his career has assisted in developing several efficient and reliable key performance indicators (KPIs). He has taken part in several new software development programs across multiple companies, helping to drive the rail industry toward automation. Dark has also collaborated with various engineering partners to minimize the total cost of equipment ownership, and his efforts have enhanced operating efficiency and modernized processes across the sector. Dark also participates in multiple AAR committees, including the Car Repair Committee, where he assisted in rewriting Rules 5 and 6 in the field manual to allow for proper field repairs to be made to end-of-car arrangements. His past experience as Greenbrier’s Car Repair Billing Manager provided insight into IT system improvements. Dark participates annually in the Be the Fight Foundation, which raises more than $100,000 annually for families of children fighting cancer. To further his success, he also recently started an MBA program at Butler University.
William DeShazor, AVP Terminal Operations, Norfolk Southern Corporation
William DeShazor achieved success with several important assignments early in his career with Norfolk Southern. As Road Manager on the Washington District, he supported the service transition from Amtrak to Keolis on Virginia Railway Express for passenger service operating on NS’s lines. He also assisted with the implementation of Amtrak’s Washington, D.C., to Lynchburg service. Most recently, DeShazor led a two-year project to launch a real-time mobile operational platform designed to improve information delivery. He played an active role in the design of the platform and relied on previous experience working in the field to provide perspective of what was needed by those who would use the technology. DeShazor also played a direct role in the development of a virtual crew room strategy that has helped NS to become a digital-first railroad. After 17 years in NS’s Transportation department, DeShazor accepted a new role as AVP of Terminal Operations for Intermodal in November 2022 and is “laser-focused” on helping NS to achieve its goal of significantly growing its Intermodal franchise by providing leadership to operational practices and strategic capital investment. He is passionate about technology, and last August, he supported the rollout of yard management software at NS’s Norris Yard in Birmingham. DeShazor is also an active member of NS’s Good Government Fund.
Mohammad El Hocheimi, Project Manager, RailPros
Mohammad El Hocheimi is a licensed civil engineer in California, Texas and Guam. He has worked on projects for a variety of agencies and districts in California, as well as the federal government through projects with NAVFAC. Most recently, El Hocheimi worked on project management/construction management for the Emerging Technology Tunnel to Ontario Airport SBCTA as the Utilities Lead and Program Management Consultant for LOSSAN Agency, assising with a variety of projects along the 351-mile coastal corridor from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. RailPros is a major subconsultant on the project. El Hocheimi has also worked on projects that included stakeholders from BNSF Railway, Union Pacific, Amtrak, LA Metro and other large transit agencies. He is passionate about getting young engineers interested in careers in the railroad industry and serves as Director of Younger Member Forums for ASCE Los Angeles. He is also the Vice President for ASCE San Bernardino and Riverside Branch and was President of ASCE San Bernardino Riverside’s Younger Member Forum in 2020-21. El Hocheimi also speaks with the ASCE student chapter at California Polytechnic–Pomona about railroad engineering and careers in the industry. In 2021, he received ASCE’s Outstanding Younger Civil Engineer Award from the Los Angeles Section and the San Bernardino and Riverside Branch.
Gregory Gadomski, PATH Superintendent, Power, Signals and Communications (PSC), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)
Gregory Gadomski’s leadership authority extends from technology implementation and data management to system-wide maintenance and power sourcing, project scoping and review, to devising and executing budgets on behalf of PANYNJ, which operates PATH. With a staff of 196 railroad professionals, he is charged with signals and communications, field and technical engineering, a complex enterprise data network, and oversight of PATH’s 20-plus power substations to ensure turnstiles, station equipment and facilities run smoothly. Formidable operational challenges are a way of life in the transit industry, but none matched those Gadomski and the PATH team faced during the pandemic. His leadership and administrative skills shined—from patching together a roster of employees that kept trains running on time to serving as part boss and part therapist for a worried team. Gadomski blends professionalism, technical ability and a personal touch. He also volunteers up to 40 hours per month as Deputy Chief Coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management in Carteret, N.J.
Cameron Ginther, Project Manager for Divisions I and II, Watco
Cameron Ginther is responsible for the $40.6 million investment to upgrade portions of the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL), one of Watco’s largest railroads and one that interchanges with three Class I’s. He supports Watco’s Divisions I and II, comprising 26 railroads, and directly supports the SKOL and Kansas & Oklahoma (KO) railroads’ federal- and state-funded capital projects. Since 2020, he’s supported six state-funded projects on those two railroads and currently is working on six more, as well as a privately funded infrastructure upgrade project. In addition, he has assisted with startups for railroads, such as Fox Valley & Lake Superior Rail System in Wisconsin, Ringneck & Western Railroad in South Dakota and Iowa, and Texas Coastal Bend Railroad. Ginther also oversees Watco’s nearly 11,000 grade crossings that feed into the FRA’s Grade Crossing Information System (GCIS) database. Since 2020, he has helped to ensure that Watco’s database is accurate and up-to-date with new crossings and that the information is provided to the FRA on schedule. Ginther has earned multiple qualifications through Watco’s training and development programs, including Foundations of Leadership and the Team Safety & Improvement Committee class, as well as annual maintenance-of-way, Roadway Worker-in-Charge, and derailment prevention and mitigation training.
Andrew Kasper, Director of Program Management, Wabtec
Andrew Kasper is responsible for support and coordination for numerous commuter lines to implement Wabtec services and products. He is leading the Wabtec support for the implementation in Denver for RTD and DTO. This support includes the onboard software, field communication and signal system, back office, and CAD. The NRMX PTC implementation in New Mexico was also supported by Kasper and his project management team, which had “one of the smallest windows to meet the PTC deadline for the contract execution.” The NRMX system is being further enhanced with the Rajant Passenger WiFi system, which is expected to be completed in first-quarter 2023. Kasper and his team are collaborating with Amtrak on one of the first non-obligatory Wabtec safety systems by leveraging existing equipment to improve safety in non-PTC territory. The Caltrain implementation of crossing optimization is also supported by Kasper and his team to coordinate across the Wabtec segments to deliver new onboard software, field implementations and system integration. In 2020, he led the coordination between the internal experts for Wabtec writing updates to PTC Safety Plans, railroad agency leadership teams, and FRA, helping railroads to meet the PTC certification deadline. Kasper’s goal is to target project implementation to improve commuter/rail performance, leverage existing safety configurations and integrate new technology.
Patrick Larm, General Director Health Services, Union Pacific Railroad
Patrick Larm has helped to lead and work on several cross-functional teams and initiatives, including Union Pacific’s current hiring initiatives to on-board new hire candidates safely; the Employee Assistance Program Mental Health yearly campaign; and the COVID-19 Pandemic Response. He previously worked on initiatives to assist with the Customer Safety Reference Guide and the Industry Derailment Prevention team. Larm has also served as a member of the Industry Mutual Response and American Red Cross. He actively supports and promotes UP’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and is a member of each Employee Resource Group, including the Asian Employee Resource Organization, Black Employee Network, Women’s Group, Latino Employee Network, and Disability Impacted Employees, among others. In 2019, Larm completed UP’s Leadership Development Program and recently obtained an Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management from MIT. Larm has also received multiple awards from AAR for submissions to the Don Lord Essay Competition.
Matthew Lawson, Engineer (Transit), Hatch
Matthew Lawson brings many strengths to projects at Hatch, including critical thinking, team building and mentorship, client relationship management, and contract writing and interpretation skills. In his role as Design and Construction Management Compliance Manager for the Rutherford GO Station and Grade Separation project in the city of Vaughan, Ontario, Lawson led a team of 27 professionals through the review and assessment of $237 million worth of infrastructure and construction deliverables. Lawson is also the Program Manager for Barrie Corridor GO Double Tracking in Ontario, which includes eight kilometers of track expansion through Toronto’s downtown core. Lawson is a champion for young people pursuing STEM careers. Through these relationships, he has secured interns to participate in Hatch’s co-op program leading to a more than 80% success rate in new graduate conversions. Lawson also volunteers within Hatch as a mentor to new graduates, and is a founding member and key organizer of Hatch’s participation in the Great Cycle Challenge in support of SickKids Canada and its ongoing battle against childhood cancer.
Natalie Liggett, Senior Director of Finance, Customer Service North America, Siemens Mobility, Inc.
Natalie Liggett began her career in the U.S. on the rail automation side of business. She was an important part of the Siemens Mobility team that worked to integrate a major acquired company (Invensys Rail) in 2012 and went on to manage many projects in New York. During her time with the Rail Automation Group, Liggett was the Finance Manager overseeing development of the next-generation gate crossing controllers and LED signal developments Siemens Mobility has in operation today. Now on the customer side of the North American business, Liggett and her team work with Amtrak technical support services and maintenance for the historic $3.4 billion order placed in 2021. A firm believer that women are the future of the rail industry, Liggett championed the creation of the Women’s Impact Network at Siemens Mobility chapter to ensure the company’s women are “given a seat at the table and a place to network with fellow colleagues.” Liggett is also a mentor of 10 young professionals both in and out of the business and a vocal ambassador of Sacramento’s natural beauty.
Renee LoSapio, General Manager, Chesapeake and Delaware, LLC
Renee LoSapio brings integrity, accountability and creativity to the industry. Not long after becoming General Manager of Chesapeake & Delaware, she took time to meet one-on-one with each of the railroad’s operations employees to discuss their career goals. She has also streamlined numerous internal processses that help the company save time and other resources. Immediately after joining C&D, LoSapio helped to implement an entirely new operating plan, which came with numerous challenges. After just a few months, the railroad was running more efficiently than ever. She was also instrumental in the near-seamless startup of C&D’s newest rail line this past summer. LoSapio, whose goal is to “make the railroad an accessible and intuitive mode of transportation for shippers and receivers,” is also a longtime contributor to the Bike the U.S. for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) organization. She has raised money for MS research and completed two cycling trips (one across the U.S. in summer 2013 and one across the UK in 2014). LoSapio also volunteers to teach swing dance classes in the her local community and supports employees in their event coordidination, including Toys for Tots, veteran events and engagement with the railroad. In 2018, LoSapio was awarded the CP Initiative Award from the Marketing & Sales Team for commercial work in bringing on incremental fuel/oil/gasoline/refined products business in North America.
Phil Martin, Passenger Conductor (Certified), Amtrak
Phil Martin has worked in many capacities in the railroad industry, including as an Amtrak corporate photographer and Chairperson of the Employees with Disabilities Resource Group, which continuously educates and guides Amtrak for planning and improving disability accessibility on trains, beyond ADA guidelines. In this role, Martin’s leadership and advocacy directly impacted the improvement in Amtrak’s Disability Index score. With more than 40,000 followers on various social media platforms, Martin makes it a goal to educate the public on the railroad industry via advocacy, photography and continuous engagement on his platforms. Over the past 10 years, Martin has been a leader with Autism Speaks, presenting to Congress, the White House, and other governing agencies in efforts to support and enhance the life of autistic individuals and others with disabilities. In 2022, Martin was also a key participant in making a terminally ill child’s wish of being a train engineer come true through the Make A Wish Foundation. No stranger to overcoming challenges, Martin always knew he wanted to be a conductor and explore the railroad industry. He submitted more then 20 applications, studied countless hours, and overcame social anxiety and many other communication challenges that autistic people face to start his career in the railroad industry. Martin has now been with Amtrak for three years.
Raul Stephen Paez, Cost Estimator, TrinityRail
In his current role, Raul Stephen Paez inspects inbound cars and sends them for approval. Once that task is completed, he fills in as a production supervisor for employees in Trinity Rail’s manufacturing facility, and trains new employees and mentors other supervisors. Paez is a leader of employees by example, in knowledge, and in compassion and empathy. He not only accomplishes his daily duties, but also helps the rest of the facility accomplish theirs. When Paez applied for his current position right out of high school, there was a back log of about 230 cars for inbound inspection. He organzied his and a co-worker’s case load, made a plan to accomplish the task, and kept himself and his co-worker motivated to accomplish the goals. As a result, the project was completed in short order, and Paez continues to prioritize all inbound inspections for the company. Paez is making strides toward becoming a Production Superintendent and hopes to continue to climb the promotion rankings at Trinity Rail. In his free time, Paez coaches youth sports and participates in the company’s United Way outreaches.
Jaspreet Pannu, Assistant General Manager, Kansas City Southern
Jaspreet Pannu began his career with Kansas City Southern as a conductor, quickly transitioning into management and progressively acquiring more responsibility over a steadily increasing footprint. In his current role as Assistant General Manager, Pannu is responsible for more than 1,400 miles of territory, comprising 18 yards and hundreds of dedicated men and women. One noteworthy contribution to the railroad industry has been Pannu’s inception and implementation of “point and call,” the physical act of pointing from the switch being thrown along the route to be used and verbally stating what your intended actions are out loud. This initiative reduced run-through switches by more than 90% in the first year within the trial terminal and is now a best practice across the majority of Class I railroads and several commuter railroad lines. Pannu was also involved in a project that reformed the KCS Training Center during a critical time coming out of COVID-19 labor shortages and prior to the railroad’s merger with Canadian Pacific. A “life-long learner,” Pannu has elected to return to university to receive an Executive Masters of Science.
Cary Pickerell, AVP of Engineering–South, R.J. Corman Railroad Company
Cary Pickerell has been part of R.J. Corman for more than 10 years, and his career has inspired many of his peers. He has held numerous key positions in the company’s Engineering Department with increasing responsibility, including Assistant Track Inspector, Track Inspector, Track Superintendent and Production Engineer. In his current role as AVP of Engineering for the company’s Southern Region, Pickerell manages and consults with the Engineering Department for different projects, and leads customer relations across Southern Region railroads and industrial facilities owned or operated by the company. Pickerell constantly strives to learn the complexities of an ever-changing industry. He helped to lead the R.J. Corman Carolina Lines (RJCS) project awarded a TIGER grant, quickly learning how to navigate this new speciality efficiently for his team and developed crucial relationships with federal, state and local officials, as well as third-party suppliers. Pickerell is actively involved in his community and participates and supports different non-profits and organizations in the Pulaski County, Ky., area.
Brandon J. Pregler, Eastern District Superintendent, Iowa Interstate Railroad
Brandon J. Pregler is instrumental in faciliating interchange at various junctions, including Chicago, one of the most challenging locations. Iowa Interstate has a small footprint in Chicago with very high volume, and Pregler’s “find a way to say yes” mentality in regards to new business/customer requests has elevated the level of service provided on his territory and keeps the overall network flowing smoothly, ensuring the railroad’s customer traffic does not get delayed. Pregler embraces an engaging approach with the railroad’s employees and advocates for their safety, day in and day out. As with most railroads, staffing is a challenge, and Pregler has redesigned operations on multiple occasions to meet the customer demands to overcome staffing challenges. He identifies where the excess capacity is and structures the operations to meet those challenges. He also continues to self educate, broadening his knowledge and experience base. Pregler seeks increasing responsibilities and has been eager for opportunities to become a more well-rounded railroader.
Alexander Ricci, Rail Engineer/Crossing Specialist, AECOM
A rising track design engineer, Alexander Ricci has served as lead on both freight and transit projects including design development for BNSF’s Colton Intermodal Yard, final design for OmniTRAX’s Brownsville Yard, and preliminary and final design for Delaware River Port Authority’s Camden-Glassboro Light Rail extension. For the past year, he has also been primary negotiating agent for Norfolk Southern’s (NS) Public Crossing Closure Program, leading a team of engineers and contract administrators that has helped close 450-plus crossings throughout the network. Ricci identifies crossing closure candidates, negotiates with roadway authorities and presents at public forums. “Beyond his work ethic, reliability and professionalism, what is most intriguing about Alex, to me, is his curiosity about a niche of the business that so few are able to learn,” says NS Public Safety Director William Miller. “He has been quick and eager to learn the skills needed to be adaptive in varying public environments, all while producing positive safety results.” Ricci also works with future railroaders through AREMA and as an alumni mentor for the Penn State Railroad Transportation Program.
Cassandra Rintoul, Director of Marketing, Forest Products, CSX Transportation
Cassandra Rintoul helps customers extend their market reach by providing warehousing solutions and by developing opportunities to land new rail locations on CSX. She has performed market studies that evaluated macro-eeconomic considerations and competitive transportation options of CSX’s railcar fleet, ensuring optimized data asset deployment across the CSX network. Rintoul also identified the capital and service improvements necessary to achieve growth for customers and for CSX. She has been part of a team working to advance rail market share through data analytics and technology improvements. Rintoul strives to be a leader who makes people feel good in her presense, and has been a mentor to several women at CSX across multiple departments. Her current mentorships focus on professional presence and navigating corporate America as a young woman. She is a Board Member for the Business Analytics, Information Systems and Supply Chain (BAISSC) at Florida State University and a volunteer for a not-for-profit animal hospital in Jacksonville, Fla.
Chris Sanford, General Director, Transportation, BNSF Railway
Since 2011, Chris Sanford has held eight different roles of increasing responsibility, all in the Transportation Department at BNSF Railway. In 2020, he helped to lead the Kansas Division network operations team through a fourth “perfect peak” season in a row, delivering 80 million packages, a 30% year-over-year increase. In his current role, Sanford’s focus is on safely delivering coal from BNSF’s Power Rail Division to meet the increased U.S. energy needs for coal. In 2022, Sanford and the Power River team helped to deliver millions of tons of coal and worked hard to overcome challenges, including adjusting the necessary resources to strive toward meeting the coal demand. During the historic ice storm of 2021, Sanford was Corridor Superintendent of BNSF’s Kansas Division. He stayed on the front lines with his team as they navigated the storm to keep high-priority trains moving, and assisted in keeping the dispatcher desk’s staffed, worked closely with dispatchers to remedy service interruptions, and helped to coordinate the logistics of hotels and food to keep the operation functional.
Adam R. Severinsen, Roadmaster, Sun Rail, Alstom Transportation
Adam R. Severinsen is a team player, leader, coach and co-worker. He helped SunRail achieve several “defect free rides” of the entire territory with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Geometry Car DOTX 221. Severinsen has earned several Employee of the Month Awards as a Track Inspector and Roadmaster, four Safety Star Awards as a Team Member skilled in all rail resource management, and teaches/coaches team members. Under his leadership, SunRail’s team has gone more than two years free of FRA-reportable injuries. He helps the team reach its production goals, sets expectations and holds the team accountable for their actions. Severinsen comes from a railroad family: His father is a former Union Pacific (UP) Roadmaster and his mother, a UP Claims Agent. He began his railroading career at SunRail as an Equipment Operator, and was promoted to Production Foreman, then Section Foreman, Track Inspector, and finally to Roadmaster in 2018. Severinsen aspires to become Chief Engineer. In his free time, Severinsen and his wife help the local animal shelter with pet adoptions, fundraising and maintenance.
Rebecca Stephen, Director Investor Relations, Canadian Pacific
A year into her Investor Relations role, Rebecca Stephen in March 2021 received news that Canadian Pacific was about to announce a merger with Kansas City Southern (KCS). Soon after, she helped to develop and deliver an investor engagement plan. A month later, when CN offered a competing bid for KCS, she worked to support senior executives in articulating why CP’s proposal was superior. In December 2021, CP completed its acquisition of KCS, with KCS shares being placed into a voting trust, pending merger approval by the Surface Transportation Board. Stephen has played an integral role managing multiple investor calls and preparing speaking notes and presentations, and has been active in shareholder and equity analyst engagement. She was recently seconded to the integration team in support of the merger. For co-creating a program to drive inclusion at CP, Stephen earned the company’s CEO Award in 2022. Also in 2022, IR Magazine recognized CP’s excellence in investor relations, due in part to Stephen’s contributions. Community-minded, Stephen has been a Board Member for the Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society since 2014; she now serves as President.
Michelle Stewart, Senior Manager, Special Projects–Locomotive Fleet and Facilities, Metrolink (SCRRA)
In her current role, Michelle Stewart serves as Chief Strategic Advisor to executive leadership on transitioning a fleet of 55 locomotives to zero- and low-emissions for Metrolink’s passenger rail operations. Stewart was a key strategist on a team that secured more than $50 million in grant funding to replace Tier 2 locomotives with the cleanest-burning Tier 4 locomotives, and transitioned the diesel locomotive and non-revenue fleet to 100% renewable diesel. She is acknowledged as Metrolink’s subject-matter expert on zero-emissions operations, resulting in invitations to serve on zero-emissions consultant review panels for commuter rail agencies in California and to present on zero-emissions initiatives at a conference organized by the Argonne National Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy. Stewart is now develolping a strategy to use $10 million in state funds for a zero-emissions pilot along Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line. Additionally, Stewart mentors students through the USC Price School of Public Policy Professional Mentorship Program.
Jessie Ugaitafa, General Manager, San Joaquin Valley Railroad Company (SJVR), a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
In nearly a decade with Genesee & Wyoming, Jessie Ugaitafa has held roles of increasing responsibility at several of the company’s railroads, including Conductor, Engineer, Dispatcher, Trainmaster, Director of Operations, Assistant General Manager, and now General Manager. In his management roles, he has helped to make freight railroads safer and more efficient, attracting and retaining both employees and customers to the industry along the way. In his first year as a General Manager of SJVR, Ugaitafa increased carloads by 9%, decreased the railroad’s voluntary turnover rate by 8% year-over-year, and reduced reportable injuries by 50%. With his leadership, such improvements have led to a major culture change that has strengthened morale among the railroad’s 85 employees. Ugaitafa serves as a mentor with American Corporate Partners, a Special Olympics volunteer, and a peer fundraiser for the U.S. Marine Corps’ annual Toys for Tots drive. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served as a Human Intelligence Officer for eight years.