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Alaska Railroad CEO to step down

Posted: August 4, 2013 - 12:05am

ANCHORAGE — The chief executive officer of the state-owned Alaska Railroad is stepping down after his three-year contract expires in September.

Chris Aadnesen announced his departure at a board of directors meeting Tuesday.

Otherwise, there was no announcement of his departure beyond informing Gov. Sean Parnell, other government officials, employees and a notice in an e-newsletter to Alaska Railroad real estate customers. It was an internal decision not to make a public announcement, Alaska Railroad spokesman Tim Sullivan said Friday without immediately elaborating.

“We did not issue an press release at that time because we were waiting for the board to determine next week what the search for a new CEO is going to look like at which point we’d have more information,” Sullivan said in a later email to The Associated Press.

He said Aadnesen’s departure was not related to the financial woes experienced by the railroad.

Aadnesen turned down an extension of his contract, but will remain with the railroad through November to help with the transition as the board searches for a replacement, Sullivan said.

The board has not yet determined how the search for his successor will be handled, Sullivan said.

In the newsletter and email to employees, Aadnesen said: “I appreciate the invitation from the Board to serve an additional tern as CEO. However, health issues in my immediate family require me to take stock of my position and ultimately decide to step down at this time.”

The announcement came four months after the Alaska Railroad eliminated 54 positions as it struggles to deal with a significant revenue drop and rising costs.

Those laid off represented 8 percent of its workforce, and was to have accounted for about $4.5 million in savings.

The railroad said it has seen a negative swing of $45 million in its finances in the last two years.

The loss of coal and petroleum customers was cited as a significant factor, along with a loss of federal funding and increased obligations in required matching funds.

The railroad eliminated 191 jobs in 2008-09, and 52 mostly seasonal employees last year.

Aadnesen indicated he was retiring after working four decades with American and international railroads.

Before joining the Alaska Railroad, he was CEO of Estonian Railways.

Aadnesen also held senior corporate positions within the industry including the Union Pacific Railroad Co., The Texas Mexican Railway Co., Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana and Houston’s Port Terminal Railroad Association.

He replaced interim president Bill O’Leary at the Alaska Railroad in September 2010.

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