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Manager of Transportation Dakota Gasification Co.
— by Julie Sneider, senior associate editor
When Tara Vesey was growing up in North Dakota, railroads often were part of her family's conversation. Her father spent 40 years working for what is now BNSF Railway, and a great uncle worked for the railroad before him. She often tagged along with her dad when he went out to meet his uncle for coffee. The two men loved to talk about their lives on the railroad, and she soaked up the details.
"It was ingrained in my life," she says of railroading.
So, it's hardly a surprise that she would jump at the chance to help create a more effective truck and rail transportation system for customers of Dakota Gasification Co. (DGC) eight years ago. Up to that point, she had spent her career in software sales. As a result, she understood the connection between transportation effectiveness and customer satisfaction.
"You can have a fabulous sales and customer service experience, but at the end of the day, if the product doesn’t get to the customer on their time frame, the customer is not happy," she says.
Dakota Gasification owns and operates the Great Plains Synfuels plant, located five miles northwest of Beulah, N.D. As manager of transportation, it's Vesey's job to make sure the company provides effective truck and rail transportation of fertilizers and chemicals.
And in her world, "effective" transportation also means the product arrives at its destination safely. Her efforts to improve safety have helped reduce and prevent non-accidental release (NAR) of hazardous materials within DGC's plant, as well as within the industry through her involvement with the Association of American Railroads Tank Car Committee. At the AAR committee level, Vesey has been active with two task forces: the T87.6 task force focused on crude and ethanol car changes and the NAR Reduction Program.
Vesey also worked with GATX Corp. to bring a tank trainer car to DGC to educate 125 plant loaders, petroleum shippers and local emergency responders in safer loading, shipping and emergency response scenarios and practices, says Kari Cutting, a vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
"I have watched Tara’s effect on the railroading industry take new heights," says Cutting, a former DGC employee who worked with Vesey for five years.
For the future, Vesey aims to continue making a difference at her company. But she also hopes to effect industry change on a government level, she says.
A few other notes about Vesey: • Her philosophy: "In my family, frankly, we never use a $10 word when a $2 word will do. Any type of complex problem can be broken down to simple and explainable steps."
• Interesting fact: Vesey and her husband Kevin Vesey own an equine center where they train working cow horses for show.
• Her sales pitch for rail transportation as a career: "There are so many areas you can focus on. A lot of engineers go into our industry, and their expertise is necessary. But there is room for people on the business side of rail, too."
Rising Stars 2015 Award Winners:
Francois Belanger, CN
Todd Blaylock, HNTB Corp.
Jonathan Chastek, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co.
Oliver Dolder, Railtech Welding & Equipment
John Riley Edwards, RailTEC, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Stefan Loeb, Watco Cos. LLC
Jessica Moore, Union Pacific Railroad
Amanda Nightingale, King County Metro Transit
Celia Ann Pfleckl, Amtrak
Charles Rennick, Providence & Worcester Railroad Co.
Kaleigh Reyes, GE Transportation
Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, Federal Railroad Administration
Bruno Riendeau, VIA Rail Canada Inc.
Curtis Shogren, CSX Transportation
Alanna Strohecker, AECOM
Keith Tarkalson, Stacy & Witbeck
Brett Urquhart, Rocla Concrete Tie Inc.
Tara Vesey, Dakota Gasification Co.
Lexie Walker, Metra
Adam Weiskittel, BNSF Railway Co.