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People News: NS, BNSF, Princeton Consultants, CRC

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
BNSF's Dr. Zabih Ghelichi (right), pictured with Amanda Mewborn, IISE President and Vice President for Atrium Health.

BNSF's Dr. Zabih Ghelichi (right), pictured with Amanda Mewborn, IISE President and Vice President for Atrium Health.

Norfolk Southern (NS) promotes Joe Gioe to Vice President. Also, Dr. Zabih Ghelichi, Senior Operations Research and Advanced Specialist at BNSF receives the 2023 Pritsker Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE); Keith Dierkx joins Princeton Consultants as Principal; and members of the Commuter Rail Coalition (CRC) elect leadership slate.

NS on June 16 announced that Assistant Vice President Performance Excellence Joe Gioe has been promoted to Vice President. He will continue leading the railroad’s Performance Excellence group, which was established in April 2023 and is responsible for “establishing operating processes and measuring performance,” according to the Class I. The group reports directly to COO Paul Duncan and partners closely with Operations leaders and their teams, including Transportation, Advanced Train Control, Engineering and Safety.

Joe Gioe

Gioe joined NS in September 2021 as Assistant Vice President Network Optimization. Previously, he was at BNSF Railway, where he held roles of increasing responsibility in Transportation and Service Design. Gioe began his career as a conductor and locomotive engineer.

“At NS, safely delivering reliable and resilient service is one of the pillars of our strategic plan,” said Duncan. “In April, we established our Performance Excellence team to support these objectives, work closely with Operations leaders, and optimize operating processes across our network. Now with the group fully formed and leveraging Joe’s experience, we’re elevating his position to Vice President where he will have increased influence on enhancing our safety culture and delivering a reliable, resilient service product.”

“In addition to his expertise in network processes, Joe is a proven leader and mentor,” Duncan added. “Over his 17-year career in the rail industry, he has demonstrated a collaborative and goal-oriented approach that has already significantly contributed to the growth and success of Norfolk Southern. I’m confident he will have an even greater impact as Vice President Performance Excellence.”

BNSF on June 17 announced, via a LinkedIn post, that Dr. Zabih Ghelichi, Senior Operations Research and Advanced Analytics Specialist, has been awarded IISE’s 2023 Pritsker Doctoral Dissertation Award (3rd place), which recognizes the best doctoral dissertations in the field of Industrial Engineering worldwide.

Ghelichi earned this recognition for his dissertation titled, “Drone Location and Scheduling Problems in Humanitarian Logistics,” which proposed opportunities to develop new optimization models and algorithms to deliver emergency medicine to hard-to-access areas using drones.

Zabih joined BNSF in 2022 after finishing his PhD in Industrial Engineering at the University of Louisville. His current position involves working with the Operations Research team, developing optimization models and algorithms to help solve train location, scheduling and routing challenges across the BNSF network.

Princeton Consultants announced June 15 that Keith Dierkx has joined the firm as a Principal, effective immediately. In this role, he will “expand the firm’s Rail and Transportation practices, helping executives improve and refine strategy, process, organization, and technology,” according to the company.

Keith Dierkx

Dierkx joins Princeton Consultants from Oracle, where he was Executive Director – Transportation and Logistics, with responsibilities including business development, sales strategy, seller enablement, thought leadership and customer success. Previously, he was Global Rail, Freight and Logistics Leader at IBM, where he established a Rail Innovation Center in Beijing, China. Prior to IBM, he was SVP of IT for one of the largest maritime terminal operators, where his team led the digital transformation and automation of terminal operations.

Dierkx, according to Princeton Consultants, is “deeply linked” to the start-up and innovation communities and currently advises and mentors several companies. He has been a frequent speaker on the digitalization of the supply chain and the use of transformational technologies to enable improved business outcomes. He has participated in more than 100 media interviews and appeared numerous times on major broadcast and cable news programs. His articles and POV’s have been published in more than 50 magazines and journals, including the International Rail Journal, CNN on-line, Forbes and Railway Age. Dierkx is the author of “AI in Logistics,” in collaboration with DHL, “Think Beyond the Rails – 2025,” “Smarter Railways,” and “The Value of a Customer Centric Strategy: and “Cognitive Computing in Rail.” He received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley and his MBA from Duke University.

“Over a thirty-year career focused on the intersection of business and technology, I have learned that creating value and improving business performance for a client is achieved through deep industry knowledge, leveraging established and emerging technologies, applying world-class methodologies and consistently delivering successful outcomes,” said Dierkx, “I chose to come to Princeton Consultants because they tick all the boxes.”

“Keith Dierkx has earned an international reputation for helping executives build impactful technology strategies,” said Princeton Consultants CEO Steve Sashihara. “I am thrilled that his insights and experience are now available to our clients.”

CRC’s 2023 Nominations Committee, comprised of Sally Librera (AECOM), Mike Allegra (Stadler), Jon McDonald (Hatch) and Brian Dagsland (Stacy & Witbeck), met extensively throughout the spring to develop recommendations for a slate of candidates to govern the Coalition. Their efforts included two appeals for nominations.

In its report to the membership this week the committee made two recommendations: first, to expand the number of board members to better reflect the current CRC membership; and second, to consider a group of candidates that together will “represent the interests of the members, bring new insights to the Coalition’s policy and advocacy pursuits, and, ultimately, complement each other’s strengths.”

Both motions passed in votes tallied in Pittsburgh on June 13. The following individuals assume their roles, effective immediately:

Mike Noland – Chair

Mike Noland is President/General Manager of NICTD/South Shore Line and has served the past two + years as CRC’s vice chair.

Michelle Bouchard – Vice Chair

Michelle Bouchard, Executive Director, Caltrain, has served the last two years as an at-large director.

Leslie Richards – Secretary

Leslie Richards, General Manager, SEPTA, has been reelected for a second term as board Secretary.

Joe Yesbeck – Treasurer

Joe Yesbeck, SVP & National Director, Rail & Transit, TYLin has been elected as Treasurer, a role he served in since being appointed in fall 2022.

Gabriel Lopez-Bernal – Affiliate Member Representative

New to the CRC board is Gabriel Lopez-Bernal, President, Icomera US, who has over 20 years of experience in civil engineering, urban policy, and planning. Before joining Icomera, Gabriel spent eight years with TranSystems, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and The Corradino Group. During this time, he managed clients, developed plans, provided technical support, and worked with federal agencies such as the Federal Transit Administration, Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, and Federal Railroad Administration. He was recognized as a 2021 Mass Transit Magazine 40 Under 40 honoree.

Darren Kettle – Director at Large

Darren Kettle, CEO, SCRRA/Metrolink, was appointed to the CRC Board last fall and this week was elected to a full two-year team.  Kettle he has more than 30 years of experience with local and regional government agencies. Before joining Metrolink, Kettle was the Executive Director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) for 14 years, and prior to that was with the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG).

Dave Dech – Director at Large

Also new to the CRC board is Dave Dech, Executive Director of SFRTA/Tri-Rail. He’s an executive with 27 years of experience in the rail industry in both freight and commuter rail service. Dech was chosen to oversee the SFRTA as it expands Tri-Rail service into Downtown Miami. He began his railroad career as a switchman for CSX and is a fourth-generation railroader. His career progressed through the ranks of Conductor and Engineer, to several senior management positions, ultimately landing him at Vice President of Rail Operations for Capital Metro in March 2018.

Otis Tolbert – Director at Large

Otis Tolbert is Rail and Transit Practice Lead at AON. Otis has been with Aon since 1998, serving Aon clients as a strategic advisor on complex risks; since becoming involved with CRC he has also advised the Coalition on the state of excess liability markets.  As global practice leader, Otis has responsibility for thought leadership, product innovation, strategic direction, and financial performance of one of Aon’s oldest industry segment practice groups. He has over 35 years of experience in the risk and insurance industry. He has risk management, underwriting, and broking experience. His responsibilities have included P&L management, personnel, and client engagement.

Kathryn Holmes – Director at Large

Kathryn Holmes is Managing Member, Holmes & Associates. For more than thirty years, Kathryn served as a strategic advisor to state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and public transit authorities on business, legal, regulatory, policy, and legislative issues. She has served as legal counsel to transit systems across North America, including service as general counsel to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA).

CRC’s founding chairman Jim Derwinski of Metra remains on the board to serve as immediate past chair, while at-large members Cathy Rinaldi (Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road) and Scott Sherin (Alstom) each have one year remaining in their current terms on the board of directors.

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