Featured Speakers


John Brooks

John Brooks

Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, CPKC

John Brooks was appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer in February 2019. Throughout John's sales and marketing career, he has held senior responsibilities in all lines of business, including coal, chemicals, merchandise products, grain and intermodal. He began his railroading career with Union Pacific and later helped start I&M Rail Link, LLC, which was purchased by the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad (DM&E) in 2002. John was Vice-President of Marketing at the DM&E prior to it being acquired by CP in 2007.

John is responsible for CPKC's business units and leads a group of highly capable sales and marketing professionals across North America. John is also responsible for strengthening partnerships with new and existing customers, generating new opportunities for growth, enhancing the value and customer experience of the company's service offerings and developing strategies to optimize CPKC's book of business. With more than 28 years in the railroading business, John brings a breadth of experience to the CMO role that is pivotal to CPKC's continued and future success.

Patrick Fuchs

Patrick Fuchs

Member, Surface Transportation Board

Patrick Fuchs was sworn in on January 17, 2019, as a Member of the Board for a five-year term of office, following his confirmation by the U.S. Senate on January 2, 2019. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Fuchs was senior professional staff member working on surface transportation and maritime issues for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation under the leadership of Chairman John Thune of South Dakota.

Mr. Fuchs has played an integral role in the development and enactment of major railroad legislation, including the first reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Board since its creation in 1996 and the first passenger rail reauthorization in over seven years. He also worked on legislation to improve rail project delivery, rail financing, and hazardous materials safety, all of which were enacted as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), the five-year, $305 billion surface transportation authorization.

Mr. Fuchs helped develop and enact the first reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety Board in over a decade and worked on legislation to increase safety by addressing opioid abuse in transportation, reforms enacted as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. His work also includes reauthorization of the Federal Maritime Commission as well as three reauthorizations of the Maritime Administration, enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Acts for Fiscal Years 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Patrick graduated with distinction in economics and political science and earned his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin, where he received the Director’s Achievement Award for his outstanding academic record. Mr. Fuchs and his wife, Katherine, were born and raised in Wisconsin.

Karen Hedlund

Karen Hedlund

Member, Surface Transportation Board

Karen J. Hedlund was sworn in on January 3, 2022, as a Member of the Board for a term of office expiring on December 31, 2025, following her confirmation by the United States Senate on December 16, 2021. Karen was named Vice Chairman of the Board on January 9, 2023 and on January 9, 2024.

Karen served in the Obama Administration as Chief Counsel of the Federal Highway Administration from 2009 to 2010, and as Chief Counsel and Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration from 2010 to 2014. Since stepping down from that position, Karen has advised governmental authorities and private investors on the development of passenger rail and transportation-oriented development projects.

Prior to joining the FRA, Karen had a long career as a legal advisor to governmental agencies and private lenders and investors on the development of a broad range infrastructure projects across the United States, including rail, transit, highways, airports, water and energy facilities. She practiced with leading national law firms in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Karen is a graduate of Harvard University (AB) and Georgetown University Law Center (JD). Karen has two children and two grandchildren in Brooklyn, New York, who love to ski and hike with her near her home in Colorado.

Maj. Gen. Gavin Lawrence

Major General Gavin Lawrence

Commanding General, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command

Major General Lawrence graduated from the United States Military Academy (USMA) in 1995 and upon graduation was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps. His civilian education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations from USMA, a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from U.S. Naval War College and a Master of Arts degree in Strategic Studies from U.S. Army War College where he successfully completed the Advanced Strategic Arts Program. He has also completed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Seminar XXI Program and University of North Carolina’s Institute for Defense and Business LOGTECH Executive Program.

MG Lawrence has held several key staff and joint assignments to include Supply & Services Officer, Combined Joint Task Force-82 (Afghanistan); Support Operations Officer, 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Liberty, NC; XO to the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Headquarters Department of the Army, Pentagon, Washington D.C.; Director of Readiness, Strategy and Operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Headquarters Department of the Army, Pentagon, Washington D.C.; and Deputy Chief of Staff, Director of Logistics, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Liberty, NC.

MG Lawrence’s command assignments include the Headquarters and Distribution Company for 225th Forward Support Battalion, Division Support Command, 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; the 801st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, KY; the 25th Sustainment Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, HI and Commander, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, PA.

MG Lawrence’s combat and operational service include one deployment to Iraq in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM and three deployments to Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2d Award), Bronze Star Medal (3rd Award), Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2nd Award), Meritorious Service Medal (4th Award), Army Commendation Medal (2nd Award), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal (2nd Award), and Meritorious Unit Commendation (2nd Award). He has earned the Air Assault Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, and Parachute Rigger Badge.

Prior to assuming his current role, MG Lawrence served as the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, NC.

Major General Lawrence is happily married to his spouse Rebecca, and together they have three children: India, Idaliz, Gavin Jr., and one grandchild, Elijah.

Marty Oberman

Marty Oberman

Chairman, Surface Transportation Board

Martin J. Oberman was designated Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on January 21, 2021. Marty was sworn in as a member of the Board on January 22, 2019. He is serving in his first, five-year term following his confirmation by the United States Senate on January 2, 2019. His current term expires December 31, 2023.

Marty has had an extensive career in both the public and private sectors. His first public position was serving as the first General Counsel to the Illinois Racing Board from 1973 to 1974, where he worked closely with the Board’s chairman to bring long needed reforms to the Illinois horse racing industry.

From 1975-1987, Marty served on the Chicago City Council as Alderman of the City’s 43rd Ward where he earned a reputation as a reform leader, committed to promoting transparency in key governing processes while also working to reduce government corruption and profligate spending. Following his departure from the Council, the Mayor of Chicago appointed Marty as Chairman of a special commission to fix Chicago”s eroding shoreline, which required collaboration with an extensive set of stakeholders, and resulted in the publication of formal recommendations, many of which have since been implemented.

In 2013, Marty was appointed to the board of Metra, the Chicago region’s commuter railroad, the second largest in the U.S. In 2014, he was unanimously elected Metra chairman and served until the end of 2016. While at Metra, he gained approval for the agency’s first long term fare program aimed at tackling the agency’s multi-billion dollar state-of-good-repair backlog, and led the Board’s effort to institute transparency and professional management in an effort to overcome an historic culture of politics and patronage abuses at the railroad. Most recently, he served on the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) until November 2018.

Since 1975, Marty also maintained a successful practice in Chicago as both a trial and appellate lawyer. His unique combination of litigation experience, elected public service, and exposure to the significant complexities of railroad infrastructure finance and operations will inform his work as a Member of the Surface Transportation Board. Marty graduated from Yale University and the University of Wisconsin Law School, cum laude, and served as a Note Editor of the Wisconsin Law Review. He has been married to his wife, Bonnie, since 1971, and has two children, and three grandchildren. Marty is a native of Springfield, Illinois.

Jim Vena

Jim Vena

CEO, Union Pacific

A railroader, Union Pacific CEO Jim Vena has more than 40 years of industry experience with a demonstrated track record of driving best-in-class operating and service results. His vision for the railroad is clear: Safety, Service and Operational Excellence will equal Growth.

Vena’s four decades of railroading bring unparalleled experience across operational management, marketing and project execution. He’s led through transformational times for the entire railroad industry.

Vena knows railroading firsthand, beginning his career as a Canadian National Railway (CN) laborer in maintenance of way, then a brakeman, conductor, locomotive engineer, trainmaster and superintendent. He progressively held roles of increasing responsibility, including senior management positions in Operations, Marketing and Sales spanning CN’s east, west and southern regions across the U.S. At CN, where he added to his knowledge by working with great leaders, Vena was ultimately promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer.

As Union Pacific chief operating officer from 2019-2020, Vena oversaw a team that achieved efficiency savings and delivered the best service product in the company’s history. He served as senior advisor to the chairman in 2021 and returned to Union Pacific as CEO in August 2023.

His most recent experience as a board member is with Direct ChassisLink, Inc. (DCLI), serving on its Board of Directors as chair of the Audit Committee. He also recently served on the FedEx Board of Directors’ Audit, Finance and Governance, Safety and Public Policy committees.

Vena grew up in the mountains of the Canadian Rockies in Jasper National Park. He and his wife, Karen, have sons Michael and Joseph. Vena received an undergraduate and graduate degree early in his career.