March 26 Symposium Speakers

 

Pam Arpin
Vice President and Chief Information Officer, CPKC
Pam Arpin was named CP Vice-President and Chief Information Officer (CIO) in July 2021 and assumed the role of CPKC Vice-President and CIO on April 14, 2023, when CP combined with Kansas City Southern.

In this role, Pam is responsible for technical integration activities related to the merger as well as redefining CPKC's digital strategy and information services (IS) roadmap, enabling CPKC’s strategic business goals with the right investments in technology. Pam leads a diverse team focused on discovering and implementing new technologies that return competitive advantage. By fostering a culture of innovation, her role positions CPKC for sustainable growth through strategically connecting people, processes, systems, data and assets.

In October 2020, Pam became the company’s first Vice-President Innovation & Business Transformation. As CPKC’s Vice-President and CIO, she retains the same portfolio, including oversight of CPKC’s Network Service Centre.

Pam has navigated an extensive and varied career and has more than 25 years of experience working in commercial, operations, finance, customer service and technology roles. Her leadership and industry influence have received North American recognition: Notably, she was named the 2019 Railway Woman of the Year by the League of Railway Women and was named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by the Women's Executive Network that same year. Most recently Pam was an honoree for the Top 10 Influential Leaders in 2023 for North American Railroads.

Pam chaired the Association of American Railroad’s Customer Service Committee from 2019 to 2022 before joining the Board of Railinc, where she was nominated to the Finance & Audit Committee. 

Pam joined CP’s Diversity and Leadership Steering Committee in 2020, which provides overall governance, direction and input on the company's diversity & inclusion strategy and leadership development programs. Pam also co-chairs CP’s Women’s Leadership Network (WLN), WLN’s focus is on growing our representation of women in senior leadership roles at CPKC. 
Pam holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan. 
 
Leslie Blackmon-Clark
Chief Operating Officer, Bison Rail Systems
Leslie Blackmon-Clark, Chief Operating Officer of Bison Rail Systems, has a life story as captivating as her career. Born in a quaint North Carolina town, far removed from the hustle and bustle of passenger rail services, Leslie's earliest memories include the distant sound of train whistles—sounds that, interestingly, she didn't quite favor as a child. Yet, it is these very sounds that prefaced a remarkable journey into the heart of the railway industry.

Leslie's professional odyssey spans an impressive three decades, beginning with her roles at esteemed corporations like Dun & Bradstreet and Pearson, and later, an influential tenure in marketing for household names such as Crayola, Cheerios and Betty Crocker. Managing brands that have touched the lives of many, Leslie showcased her exceptional ability to marry excellence with innovation, turning challenges into celebrated opportunities. Her academic pursuits, culminating in an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, laid the groundwork for a career defined by strategic foresight and unwavering leadership.

The launch of Bison Rail Systems, co-founded with her husband twenty years ago, marked a watershed moment in Leslie's career. This venture was not just a business endeavor; it was a leap of faith into creating a legacy that would redefine the railway sector. As the COO, Leslie has been the architect of transformation, steering Bison Rail Systems to remarkable national and international acclaim through her introduction of structure, compliance, and strategic alignment. Her leadership has been a catalyst for growth, propelling the company into a future where it stands as a testament to innovation and resilience.

But Leslie's influence extends beyond the boardroom. She is a trailblazer who challenges gender norms in a traditionally male-dominated field, embodying resilience, adaptability, and a pioneering spirit. Together with her husband, Leslie also co-founded a wire and assembly shop to support the construction of signal houses and enclosures, showcasing her commitment to the broader industry ecosystem.

Leslie Blackmon-Clark's journey from a child who once disliked the sound of trains to a leader reshaping the very industry those trains belong to is not just inspiring—it's a narrative of transformation. An advocate for gender inclusivity, her contributions to Bison Rail Systems and the railway industry at large have not only defined a company's success but have also lit a path for future leaders to follow.
 
Tamara Edwards
PR, Communications, and Personal Branding
Tamara Edwards is a PR, Personal Branding, and Communications entrepreneur, speaker, podcaster, expert, and soon to be author. 

Her body of work fosters an environment of expansive professional and business development opportunities through the lens of PR, Personal Branding, and Communications.  

Tamara got her start reporting directly to a U.S. Congressman in Washington, D.C., first in an administrative capacity, and later on in an expanded communications role. Tamara would go on to found her own consulting company, TE&Co., to bridge the gap between the individual perspective and measurable business outcomes. 

Today, industry, political, and civic leaders — including family offices, investors, and world leading venture capitalists — turn to Tamara as a trusted advisor to concept, build, and develop highly effective visibility initiatives designed to shape the landscape of public discourse.

Through her signature program, Personal Brand in a Box, Tamara has served hundreds of busy founders, entrepreneurs, and professionals in their effort to create awareness around their biggest and best ideas. 

Tamara believes that personal branding is the highest form of self expression and it is essential to all great business models.‚Äč

Whether it be finding ways to strengthen America’s national security, maintaining a pulse on cutting-edge technology solutions, or solving real time problems for the American public (such as affordable housing), chances are Tamara is somwehere behind the scenes, threading the needle of visibility, awareness, and lasting change
 
Kathy Gainey
Head of Global Regulatory Affairs, CN
Kathy Gainey is CN’s Deputy General Counsel and is based in Washington, DC. She joined CN in 2017, and her practice includes federal regulatory matters, including those relating to service, operations, rail safety, technology, and cybersecurity. She previously worked in private practice representing transportation clients. She previously served as the Chair of the Transportation and Transportation Security Law Section of the Federal Bar Association and the President of the Association of Transportation Law Professionals. She received her law degree from Harvard Law School. She graduated with honors from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the majors of Economics and Philosophy.
 
Trish Haver
Chief Commercial Officer, NRC
 Trish has 26 years of rail and port transportation experience. She offers a background in development, engineering, and market strategy. Specializing in strategic and industrial planning, 3P infrastructure, and supply chain, Trish is focused on expanding and growing North Carolina’s competitive advantage through rail.

Her role as the Chief Commercial Officer for North Carolina Railroad concentrates on new business development and project management. Trish plays a key role in shaping and executing strategic plans focused on revenue growth from the company’s assets and other resources.

Additionally, Trish served as the CCO of Green Rock Distribution and CEO of Pyxis Associates, leveraging her expertise in infrastructure, construction, industrial development, and materials contracting in the greater Gulf Coast region. During her time with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and Port of New Orleans, she was Vice President of Industrial Development. Trish also spent over 20 years with Norfolk Southern in various marketing, finance, and development roles.

Trish holds an MBA from Old Dominion University with a concentration in Ports and Maritime Economics/Operations and a Bachelor of Arts from the College of William and Mary. 
 
Vanessa Knapton
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing Field Services Division, Cathcart Rail
Vanessa Knapton works for the largest independent railcar repair network in the US. She oversees the business development for Cathcart’s Field Services Division, where her teams function as car departments for short line railroads.  With over 50 partnerships to maintain, Knapton functions as the liaison between host railroads and the repair operating teams.

Knapton started in the railroad industry as a switchman-conductor for the Santa Fe  (later BNSF) in Los Angeles, California in 1994. She had graduated from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree in government and economics. Knapton worked for four years as a union operations employee and had her first two children. In 1998, Knapton was promoted to Assistant Trainmaster at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

As Trainmaster, Knapton helped design the operations systems at BNSF for the massive influx of container business in the first international intermodal boom from 2000 to its height in 2006. During her tenure as trainmaster, Knapton completed an MBA program with an emphasis on finance at Chapman University and had her third child.

Knapton and BNSF parted ways in 2008 and Knapton worked in warehouse logistics and for a railroad shipper until she joined an early entrant in a niche market of the short line railroad railcar repair business in 2011. For the last dozen years, Knapton has worked for three of the largest running repair agent companies in the country and has established 25+ repair operations at railroads that previously did not have car inspection teams.
 
Linda Laurello
Chief Operations Officer, Delta Railroad Services
Linda Laurello is a distinguished professional in the railroad industry, blending a robust academic background with a proud familial legacy spanning four generations in railroading. Serving as the Chief Operations Officer at Delta Railroad Services, Linda brings a unique blend of academic insight and hands-on experience to her role.

Educated at John Carroll University, Linda earned her Bachelor's degree in Business Management, laying a solid foundation for her career in the business world. Building upon this foundation, she pursued her passion for finance by obtaining an MBA in Finance from Northeastern University, honing her analytical skills and strategic acumen.

With a familial heritage deeply intertwined with the railroad sector, Linda's journey in railroading is not merely professional but deeply personal. Her upbringing immersed in the industry instilled in her a profound respect for its traditions and a keen awareness of its evolving landscape.

At Delta Railroad Services, Linda leverages her academic qualifications and familial insights to drive operational excellence and foster innovation. Her proficiency in business management, coupled with her expertise in finance, enables her to navigate complex challenges and capitalize on emerging opportunities in the railroad industry.

Linda Laurello's journey from academia to railroading epitomizes her dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to excellence. With her academic credentials complementing her railroad construction experience, she continues to make meaningful contributions to Delta Railroad Services and the broader railroad community.
 
Sue Marines
Vice President Global Talent, GATX
Sue Marines is a talent leader passionate about driving business results through people. With her work across numerous industries, including railcar leasing, media, consulting and higher education, Sue has engaged leaders in developing future talent, building highly effective teams and growing organizational capabilities.

As Vice President Global Talent for GATX, Sue leads a team that creates, aligns and executes strategies in Talent Acquisition, Leadership Development, Learning & Development, Talent Review, Succession Planning, and Performance Management.  Since joining GATX in 2015, Sue has progressed through HR positions with increasing responsibility, partnering closely with leaders in North America, Europe and India. She proudly helped launch the first employee resource group at GATX, Women in Leadership (WIL), which focuses on attracting, retaining and developing female talent. Sue has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Drake University, an M.B.A. in HR Management and Strategic Management from University of Illinois at Chicago and a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) Certification.  Sue is also an active member of the League of Railway Women (LRW).
 
Shundrekia Stewart
Director of Sales - Energy, Trinity Rail
 
Connie Vail
Vice President, Rail Services Division, Cathcart Rail
Connie Vail is the Vice President of Operations for Cathcart Rail, Rail Division. Vail began her railroad career in 1998, as a freight train conductor for Norfolk Southern. But before her fulfilling her career in railroading, she had two other completely different careers-- as a clinical psychologist and registered nurse!  

Vail graduated from the prestigious Cornell University with a degree in psychology in 1991. After college, Vail worked as a psychologist, at a detention facility for emotionally disturbed teenage boys.  Vail returned to college, to earn a BSN in Nursing from the State University of New York (SUNY) and worked as an Emergency Room, Nurse Manager for three years.  Eventually because Vail was raised in a railroad family (her father and grandfather were both engineers), she found herself drawn to railroading, where she built her long-term career. After joining NS as a conductor, Vail became a locomotive engineer and was promoted to Trainmaster before leaving NS in 2011. Vail accepted a job as a Trainmaster for Canadian Pacific in Davenport Iowa.  Her railroad operations career would take her to short line railroads like the Iowa Interstate Railroad, Progressive Rail, and railroad contractors like Harbor Rail, and finally Cathcart Rail in 2020.

In her 26-year rail career, Vail has been promoted through the management ranks from trainmaster to Superintendent, General Manager, Director of Safety and Compliance and now, Vice President. Connie Vail leads the Rail Services division at Cathcart Rail. She oversees operations at three short line railroads, a track maintenance company, and numerous contract switching, transloading, and mechanical teams. 

Vail’s leadership was instrumental after Cathcart Rail’s selection as operating carrier for former CSX line in Parkersburg, West Virginia in 2020. As Cathcart Rail took over this railroad from the CSX, there were no employees, no engines, no track servicing program. Connie had to start from scratch to create the railroad - hiring and training all the operations, track, and locomotive mechanics. She has grown her division team to over 70 employees. This railroad has doubled its volume while maintaining zero injuries.  Vail is active in Operation Lifesaver, has trained and developed many leaders who have become managers, as well as conductors, engineers and track employees and has trained over 150 people in her lifetime to be CPR qualified.