Peninsula — The cry of "All Aboard!" will continue in the valley but with a new conductor.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad President and CEO Craig B. Tallman is retiring at the end of the year after five years of providing for scenic trips on the railroad that runs through Cuyahoga Valley National Park from Akron to Independence.
CVSR’s Board of Trustees has formed a search committee and hired Ratliff & Taylor to search for a new chief executive. Headquartered in Independence, Ratliff & Taylor is a full-service talent management firm with extensive experience in leadership searches for nonprofit institutions.
Board Chair Raymond J. Labuda saluted Tallman for increasing the railroad’s array of service offerings, attracting new riders, maintaining a balanced budget and improving safety, reliability and overall passenger experience.
"In addition, Craig formed important new community partnerships with the Cleveland Clinic, Hattie Larlham Foundation and LeBron James Family Foundation while continuing our strong relationship with Cuyahoga Valley National Park and its partner organizations," Labuda said. "Thanks to his leadership, we also saw our volunteer organization contribute over 90,000 hours of volunteer service in 2015."
The interest in the railroad has increased dramatically in 2016, said Kim Shafron, Vice President of CVSR.
"We have worked with Cuyahoga Valley National Park to celebrate the NPS Centennial to build awareness to the area and developed some creative collaborations and new events to draw new audiences," Shafron said. "We also lowered our all-day pass tickets to $15 to encourage visitors to use CVSR as alternate transportation through the park."
While CVSR is a 501-C(3) not-for-profit organization, it operates much like a for-profit business, expecting operating revenues to cover operating expenses. As a result, the combination of contributed income, foundation grants and membership dues can be used to fund capital improvements.
Formed as a hobbyist railroad in 1972, CVSR has grown steadily over the years, becoming a major economic engine for Northeast Ohio. Today it serves nearly 200,000 passengers annually and generates revenues of over $3 million. In addition to scenic rides through the National Park, the Scenic Railroad’s programming includes The Polar Express; Day Out With Thomas; breakfast, lunch and dinner trains; wine and beer tastings; Underground Railroad re-enactments; murder mystery events; and many other seasonal programs. Its Bike Aboard! program enables bicyclists to bike one-way through the National Park and then return by rail.
According to CVSR’s Board Chair, the next CEO will be expected to be a strong business leader, operations manager and external "face" for the railroad, as it continues to expand its community involvement throughout Northeast Ohio.
Ratliff & Taylor executives say they intend to cast a "wide net" for the railroad’s next chief executive.
"The plan is to focus on naming the right qualified candidate to help the organization achieve even greater milestones," Shafron said. "I will continue to work with the Board and the organization beyond Craig’s declared departure date if necessary to ensure an orderly transition."
For more information about the railroad, visit cvsr.com.