Meet the Shortline Safety Institute Team
Ron Hynes, Executive Director
Ron has 25 years of industry experience with Class I, II, and III railroads. He began his railroading career with the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad and was later instrumental in the formation of several small railroads that formed the Ohio Central System, where he served as vice president and general manager. After a stint with Conrail, he was part of the transition team during the purchase and startup of the Wheeling & Lake Erie, and later settled in to the position of Superintendent of Safety, Rules, & Training. Ron joined the National Transportation Safety Board in 1998 where he served as investigator-in-charge before becoming chief of rail accident investigations. Ron joined the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as the Director of the Office of Policy, where he provided vision and direction for the development of the National Rail Plan, other multimodal transportation policies, and recommended TIGER grant selections. Most recently, Ron served as FRA’s Director, Office of Technical Oversight where he provided leadership to twelve technical divisions and served as Chair of the FRA’s Safety Board, the entity that considers industry’s petition for waivers from FRA regulations. Ron holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Youngstown State, and a Master’s of Science in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Mike Long, Senior Safety and Operations Manager
Mike is no stranger to keeping railroad people safe in a complex and demanding environment. He brings over 20 years of rail safety, operations, and regulatory experience to the Safety Institute. Mike is a veteran of Desert Shield / Desert Storm, he deployed numerous times around the globe while serving in the U.S. Marines. Upon leaving the Marine Corps, he joined BNSF as a transportation manager, working in several terminals, culminating as the Asst. Superintendent in Chicago. From 2003-2014, Mike served the FRA in a variety of positions, culminating with Regional Administrator, where he oversaw five states in the Midwest, and included long distance passenger and commuter operations, every Class I, and many Class II and III railroads. Mike was most recently Sr. VP-Compliance with G&W Railroad Services, Inc. and gained further insight and understanding of the safety environment of short lines and regional railroads. Mike’s hobbies include scuba diving, triathlons, and health & fitness.
Michele Malski, Safety Program Manager
Michele is a second generation railroader, growing up with respect for the traditions, heritage, and importance the short line railroad industry brings to the economy. Michele earned her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University where she studied Industrial Labor Relations and Law and Society. While in school, she interned with Norfolk Southern, Bombardier and Amtrak. Michele brings a broad range of railroad experience to the Short Line Safety Institute, having held positions as Trainmaster at BNSF, handling safety initiatives, territory trackage rights, interchange agreements, and customer relations at CP, and Trainmaster of Passenger Operations at Bombardier Transportation (MARC commuter trains).
Michele is a true railroader at heart with a passion for progressing the standard and culture of safety within the rail industry. Michele is excited to foster and develop the Short Line Safety Institute, and cultivate and enhance the safety culture of the short line rail industry today for a better and safer tomorrow. Michele’s hobbies include painting, skiing, kayaking, traveling to Montana, and running with her four-legged fur babies Charlemagne and Marcella. She is a Chicago Blackhawk’s hockey fan, although now will have to consider the Washington DC Capitals.
J R Sampson, Safety Culture Assessor
Prior to working for ASLRRA, he was employed by OmniTRAX from 2004 to 2013 as the Director of Safety and Rules and was promoted to Vice President of Safety and Rules. Before working for OmniTRAX, JR worked for RailTex/Rail America as a Train Service Operations Manager, Trainmaster, Manager of Rules, and was responsible for training new employees. Between 1986 and 1992, J R worked for Jackson Jordan as a Rail Grinder Operator and Forman. Before Jackson Jordan, J R started his 40 year career as a Brakeman in 1976 for Missouri Pacific Railroad. J R earned his Associate of Arts from Crowley’s Junior College, studied 2 years of Psychology at Arkansas State University, and earned a Bachelor’s of Sacred Literature at Northside School of Preaching. J R understands the complexity of Safety in the railway system from the yard to the office. He is a strong asset to the Safety Institute and has the background to prove it.
Pat Black, Safety Culture Assessor
From 2012 to 2014, Pat worked for WATCO Companies LLC as the Director of Operations Gulf Region. From 2006-2012, he held multiple positions at OmniTRAX including General Manager – Hudson Bay Railway, General Manager – Coors Switching Facility, General Manager – Great Western Railway, Director of Marketing and Sales- Northern Region. Starting his career as a Switchman, Pat began obtaining extensive knowledge as he was promoted to Brakeman, Conductor, Engineer, and then Yardmaster which required strict compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules and regulations. Beginning in April of 1977, Pat has gained superior knowledge in safety features and regulations in the United States and Canada. Pat is an expert in General Code of Operating Rules, Hazmat, AB&TH, and Transportation Safety Rules. Pat is a valuable asset to the Short Line Safety Institute team and brings knowledge, experience, and attention to minute detail to increase productivity and increase everyday safety for our employees.
Sam Cotton, Safety Culture Assessor
Previously in 2011, Sam started working as the Divisional General Manager for Omnitrax Central Division. From 2007 to 2011, Sam was the General Manager for Omnitrax’s Panhandle Northern Railroad (PNR). In 2009, Sam was awarded the ASLRRA Safety Person of the Year and the PNR-ASLRRA Most Improved Railroad of the Year.
Prior to PNR, in 2000 to 2007, Sam was the General Manager for Alliance Terminal Railroad. Staring work for OmniTRAX in 1997, Sam held many titles such as Superintendent, Conductor, and Engineer.
He was responsible for planning, directing, and implementing safety programs ensuring a cleaner, more secure accident free work environment. Prior to joining the railway industry, Sam had a 12 year career in Law Enforcement. Sam Cotton’s dedication, extensive knowledge, and reliability are true assets that the Short Line Safety Institute Team value most. In his spare time, Sam enjoys the outdoors and pursuing his second passion, professional bass fishing.
Robert Wayne Hamm, Safety Culture Assessor
Prior to joining the Short Line Safety Institute, Wayne was employed at H&H Railroad Consulting, LLC as the President and Director of Training. He was responsible for sales and profit/loss management to include financial, administrative, personnel, inventory control, customer relations, A/R & A/P, and bookkeeping for this start-up operation. Prior to H & H Railroad Consulting, LLC, Wayne was the General Road Foreman of Engines for OmniTRAX from 2007-2013. This position required the certification and recertification of Locomotive Engineers and Conductors, visiting properties to monitor performance, and responding to inquiries regarding policies, procedures, & programs. From 2003-2007, he was the Manager of Safety and Operating Practices at RailAmerica. He started his railroad career with the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1978 and has held various positions such as Brakeman, Conductor, Locomotive Engineer, Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers, Rules Examiner & Locomotive Engineer class trainer & certifier, and regional manager of safety and operating practices. He was instrumental in authoring a Locomotive Engineers Training program used by many short line throughout the country with the birth of CFR 49 240 Regulations. Wayne attended Sam Houston State University and Southwest Texas State University.
Randy Matson, Safety Culture Assessor
Prior to joining the Short Line Safety Institute, Randy was employed by OmniTrax as the General Manager for NKC Railway from 2009 to 2016. Under his leadership and up to his retirement in 2016, NKC Railway experienced its best ever safety record in its twenty-one years of operation. He was named the Safety Person of the Year for all of OmniTrax in 2013. Prior to his term as General Manager, Randy served as Chief Mechanical Officer and Superintendent of Operations for NKC. Randy began his railroad career in 1977 with the Union Pacific as an electrician in the mechanical department and worked supervising crews in the proper maintenance and repairs of the locomotive fleet. Randy carries his belief in safety home to his children and grandchildren by insisting on personal protective equipment and job safety briefings prior to any task beginning.
Robert Lee, Safety Culture Assessor
Robert has had a long history in the railroad industry, beginning in 1974 on the Missouri Kansas and Texas (MKT) starting out as a clerk in the Denison Yard office prior to entering the engineer-training program. After working as an engineer for several years, Robert entered management as Road Forman of Engines, and progressed to the position of Director of Rules and Safety for the MKT. Robert remained in rules and safety until he retired in 2004 after over 30 years, writing, teaching and promoting safety and rules compliance. Robert was privileged to be part of the original committee developing and publishing the first and subsequent issues of the General Code of Operating Rules for the railroad and served thirty years as secretary of the GCOR Rules Committee until he retired in 2004. After retirement, Robert continued to assist railroads in training on the GCOR, writing training materials and improving exam formats. During the years following retirement, Robert has had the opportunity to conduct several two-week rules training classes for new employees on one of the larger short line railroads. Roberts long and extensive career in operating and safety rules are true assets that the Short Line Safety Institute Team values.