Mike Wheeler will be retiring; an outside search had been long suspected; Cindy comes from UNP having been, of course, at CSX. Cindy will be the first COO - a) at NSC b) maybe ever? - to have top Ops leadership positions at 3 of the 4 US major RRs; she will be only the 4th (corrected) woman to head Ops at a Class One RR – another being, of course, herself, at CSX (plus Kathryn McQuade at CP and Katie Farmer at BNSF)! Her full intro should come on NSC earnings call (although she isn’t starting until 9/1) … Cindy has been a popular presenter at RailTrends in her CSX role; we welcome her back to the C-level and think she will bring solid, stable leadership to NSC. Doubters may question her PSR credentials (she was the CFO before Hunter – but is there any position less secure than COO when Harrison arrived at a railway? (I mean, a CMO would just be ignored). She has been at UP for 2 ½ years, the last year and a half under COO Jim Vena, serving as head of the Northern Region (as big as any eastern railroad by itself) and VP-Network Planning.
Old-timers remember when no one moved from one big railroad to another, much less 3 (nor from a rival, like CSX to NSC). Maybe that’s a myth like “before free-agency ballplayers stayed on the same team” – but today there seems to be a fair amount of “free agent moves” and not JUST the CN Diaspora (think: BNSF to CN COO, for example). This trend should benefit the industry and turn intramural disputes and rivalries into a broader, global network outlook. NS had previously brought in its CFO Mark George, from outside the railway (though not from another carrier); however, as Bill Stephens points out in Trains/online, 4 of the 7 major rail COOs now come from other railways.