PENINSULA He loves to hear the church bell toll and the whistle of the train as it passes through town so it's no wonder he considers his new job in charge of the railroad a great opportunity.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) has chosen Joe Mazur as its president and chief executive officer, effective March 21.

"i'm going to work, live and play in the park," Mazur said.

A four-year resident of Peninsula, Mazur has lived in Boston Heights and Richfield for 21 years.

"When you're in Peninsula, there are two sounds that make you smile," Mazur said. "The church bell and the train horn."

For the past six years, Mazur has served as president & CEO of the International Soap Box Derby. Under his leadership, Mazur strengthened the organization's programs and offerings, improved community and education outreach and significantly expanded the Derby's STEM-Based Education program.

"I walked into the Soap Box Derby going on life support, and six years later the Derby has had a profit the last five years and will continue to grow and become larger," Mazur said.

The Soap Box Derby was the first non-profit he had worked for, Mazur said.

"One of the things I take away from the Derby is the importance of volunteers and the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community," Mazur said. "I'm going to have fun working with the [CVSR] staff and volunteers to create more experiences."

Mazur said CVSR has brought speciality events to the railroad, and there is a demand for more.

"The dining experience is selling out every week," said Mazur, who enjoyed a breakfast trip on the train with his wife. "I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity."

As a resident of Peninsula and fan of CVSR, Mazur said he is eager to assume his new position with the organization.

"Joe brings a great mix of non-profit and private sector experience and accomplishments. His commitment to Northeast Ohio will help to move CVSR to the next level," said Ray Labuda, board chairman of CVSR. "His track record of achieving measurable positive outcomes for non-profits coupled with his passion and enthusiasm for Cuyahoga Valley National Park and CVSR make him the ideal choice for our new President and CEO."

Mazur joins the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad with more than 24 years of experience in organizational development, strategic business planning and corporate sponsorship.

"The Towpath and the train are the two veins that go through our national park and I am fortunate the CVSR job became available," Mazur said. "Everyone who lives around here wants more reasons to come to the park."

The CVSR is renovating some of the train cars and creating a specialty car for children, he said. In March CVSR offers events like Hale Farm & Village Maple Sugar Express; Murder Mystery Train Shamrocks in Old Chicago; The Haunted Cuyahoga: Ghost Stories of the Valley; A 'Wee Bit' of Ireland Ride; and Cozy on the Cuyahoga.

"The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and Cuyahoga Valley National Park are wonderful assets to Northeast Ohio," said Mazur. "I look forward to working with the dedicated staff, volunteers and board members to continue to improve the impact this organization has throughout the region."

Mazur will assume his new position on March 21, 2017. His predecessor, Craig Tallman, retired in January 2017.

Mazur said he met Tallman in 2012 and thought "I'd love to have his job when he retired."

One of Mazur's biggest responsibilities will be fundraising.

"The challenge is to raise the funds to increase the experience for the riders in Northeast Ohio," he said. "I've been aware of the park for a long time but what I'm hearing from partners is that there is a continuous effort to increase the awareness of our national park and amenities within the park."

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) is a private sector, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) volunteer supported organization operating in partnership with Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and is dedicated to the preservation of passenger rail transportation in Cuyahoga Valley and the historic Ohio & Erie Canalway. CVSR has been providing excursion rail service for 42 years.

For more information about the railroad, visit CVSR.com.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP