Rising Stars 2021: Charlie Monte Verde

This article first appeared in Progressive Railroading.
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Charlie Monte Verde, 39
Vice president of strategic planning
Genesee Valley Transportation Co. Inc.

Nominator’s quote: “He has a clear-headed, nonpartisan approach to government affairs, and knows the value of relationships above all else. He is a fearless operative, a strategic planner, and has the ability to see around corners and perceive ‘what’s next.’ In his capacity on both ASLRRA’s Legislative Policy and Environmental committees, he strives to keep us ‘on the right side of history,’ an important viewpoint that we share in these changing and challenging times for our industry and the nation we serve.” — Chuck Baker, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (and a 2014 Rising Star)

Monroe Community College; B.S. in public administration from SUNY Empire State College.

Job responsibilities
This is something of a Swiss army knife position related to the vision of the company as one generation transitions out and the next wave of professionals comes onboard.

Career path
Earned an associate degree while working for Genesee Valley Transportation Co. (GVT) Rail in the track/MOW department. Enrolled at SUNY Empire State College; picked up a position handling transportation affairs for state Sen. James Alesi. Upon finishing school, joined Amtrak’s government affairs department in Chicago. Spent 10 years there, building grassroots rail advocacy coalitions. In 2017, transitioned to Amtrak’s long distance service line. Later, returned to GVT Rail to build an executive team that identifies strategic growth opportunities.

How did you get into the railroad industry?
I was born into it, and grew up across the same space and time as our company. I’m a proud second-generation railroader.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?
Relationships, relationships, relationships. — Ray Lang via Joe McHugh (both Amtrak)

What advice would you give to a new railroader?
We’re fortunate to be in an industry where the finished product is so very tangible, so soak it all up. Ask questions. Be a plucky nuisance. Get yourself up in the cab, learn the beautiful mechanics of being able to cleanly drive a spike into a tie. The more you know, the more the ideas will flow, and with any luck a passion will flourish from that.

What was your very first job?
Paperboy, summer of third grade into fourth, maybe? My classmates were merciless about those newspaper racks over the back tire.

Describe a fun fact about yourself
I became something of an obsessive gardener during the height of the pandemic. That’s a multigenerational influence, as well.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I serve on the board of the Chicago Writers Association and am eternally battling with composing the great American novel. Trying to make a mark on the publishing world while one might still be considered a “rising star” there as well.

What is the rail industry’s biggest challenge?
Accommodating the need for comprehensive transportation on the American rail network. It is a symbiotic relationship, freight and passenger rail, and a forward-thinking perspective across our industry is essential to the ideal of a truly powerful nation. In many ways, as goes this thing of ours, so goes the American dream.