Amtrak Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating and Commercial Officer Stephen Gardner has been appointed President, effective Dec. 1, 2020, succeeding Bill Flynn, who will remain as CEO and continue to serve on the company’s board of directors. Gardner’s appointment, Amtrak said, “is part of a broader set of actions taken under Flynn’s leadership, working with the Board of Directors, to ensure that Amtrak is well-positioned for success in fiscal year 2021 and beyond.”
It was only a matter of time before Gardner was named President, as many industry observers had commented following Flynn’s appointment, and during the tenure of Richard Anderson, Flynn’s predecessor. Gardner, it is widely understood, has been making most of the major decisions and quietly setting policy in his role as second-in-command.
Gardner is a lifelong Democrat and skilled political operative who joined Amtrak in 2009 following a stint on Capitol Hill developing rail and transportation policy for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and for Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and others. Early in his transportation career, he held various positions with Guilford Rail System (now Pan Am Railways) and the Buckingham Branch Railroad in Virginia. He is widely recognized as the principal author of PRIIA (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008). By 2017, he had garnered enough experience to be appointed to Amtrak’s top spot, but “there was no way he’d get the job as long as there was a Republican in the White House, and as long as Elaine Chao was Secretary of Transportation,” according to one Capitol Hill transportation insider. “When Democrat Joe Biden, a staunch Amtrak supporter and long-time Amtrak customer, became President-elect, that set the wheels in motion to give Stephen Gardner the throttle. It’s not surprising that the Amtrak Board didn’t wait until Inauguration Day.”
“Since coming to Amtrak in 2009, Stephen Gardner has been responsible for efforts to expand state-supported service partnerships, advance significant equipment procurements, improve Northeast Corridor infrastructure, formulate policies to carry out Amtrak’s strategic plan and guide general development and planning activities,” Amtrak said in announcing his appointment. “As President, he will drive the company’s effort to regain and grow customers and partners through strong delivery of Amtrak’s Annual Operating Plan and modernization of Amtrak’s products, services, infrastructure and fleet. Overseeing Marketing, Operations, Planning and Asset Development, and Government Affairs and Corporate Communications, he will lead day-to-day operations and advance Amtrak’s long-term goals.”
“We have two urgent challenges in 2021. We need to successfully manage our business through this global pandemic, and we need to take the right steps to ensure that Amtrak is strong and viable for the next 50 years and beyond,” said CEO Bill Flynn. “[Establishing separate President and CEO positions] reflects these significant responsibilities and creates a leadership structure to address the challenges ahead.”