Mayor, railroad trustees to determine who sits on management board

By Mark Bassett

Nevada Northern Railroad Executive Director

The railroad is at a critical crossroads. One path leads to the realization of a thirty year dream and the other path may stop the railroad cold on its tracks. And it all comes down to who the Mayor appoints and who the Trustees confirm as Management Board members this Thursday night.

The three current Management Board members have decided to re-apply to the Management Board and request reappointment by the Mayor and confirmation by the Trustees.  The three individuals who are seeking reappointment are John Gianoli, Chairman of the Board and fellow Board Members, Randy Larson and Roger Bowers.

These three individuals have rock solid experience and are the best candidates for the positions. Why? Just compare the condition of the railroad today to what it was years ago. Millions of dollars have been invested in the railroad during their terms in office. Buildings, utilities, steam locomotives and railroad cars have required the expenditure of a substantial amount of money. New programs and projects have been undertaken and developed. The museum membership is global, we have a member in every state in the union and six foreign countries. Just like our membership, the tourists who make the trek to Ely are global too and they leave about $4,000,000 in our community every year. And critically, the finances of the railroad are in the best shape that they have been in since its founding in October of 1985.

John Gianoli has been on the board for over a decade and has applied for reappointment. It might be tempting to say that now is the time to bring new blood onto the board and thank Mr. Gianoli for his years of service. Yet who has the capability to replace him? As the President of The First National Bank of Ely, John has been very generous in the financial support he has given the railroad. In the past two years, The First National Bank of Ely has issued a challenge grant to the members and supporters of the railroad. In the first year, the bank promised to match $25,000 in donations and last year it was $30,000. And in both years the railroad met the challenge and exceeded it! Under his stewardship John has seen the operating income of the railroad increase from $281,000 a year to more than $1,000,000 per year.

Yes, John is a great contributor, but he is also a great volunteer of the railroad too. He has served as the Chairman, Vice-Chairman or Board Member for over ten years. In addition to his board duties, he arranges our annual fund raising train, the Taste of Italy, in September. And then on every Saturday in October, he gets rather ghoulish, as he makes his annual appearance as a zombie to the delight of our riders on the Haunted Ghost Train. That John is willing to serve another four year term is very fortunate for the railroad and he deserves to be reappointed.

Randy Larson has deep roots in White Pine County. His experience is in finance and mining. More specifically and most recently, transporting copper concentrate from the Robinson Mine to the world. This expertise is critical to the Railroad and the Management Board. Let’s face it, the steam locomotives are great and they bring lots of tourists to our community, but, and it is a big BUT, they don’t pay for themselves and they never will. So we need to find another source of revenue. Our best chance for new revenue is to once again haul copper concentrate on the railroad. This would be a win-win-win for the railroad, the mine and the community. For the railroad, it would be a steady source of revenue year round. For the mine it would reduce their transportation costs and lower their production costs. Lower production costs means the mine can better survive the drop in copper prices that everyone has been watching with trepidation. And for the community, opening the railroad would provide new opportunities for business development and non-mine related jobs.  Randy has the experience to assist the Railroad in achieving this goal.

Randy also volunteers at the railroad. He has served as Chairman and Board Member of the Management Board. But he also rolls up his sleeves and helps out with electrical issues and he is one of the reasons our Haunted Ghost Trains are such a huge success. Randy finds the generators, lights, and cords that light up the events along the track, making the Haunted Train feasible.

These are just a handful of the skills that Randy brings to the table. These are the type of skills that could get the railroad open again and hauling copper. These are the skills that can insure the future of the mine and our community. Randy is also willing to be reappointed to the Management Board and serve another four year term.  He too deserves to be reappointed.

Roger Bowers is the newcomer to the Management Board but he is not new to the railroad. He and his wife Susie have volunteered for years on the Polar Express Trains, the Haunted Ghost Trains, the Geology Trains and the excursion trains. If the railroad needs a sign or poster, Roger donates the materials and the printing of all signs and posters.

People enjoy our Excursion Trains, but they love our Special Event Trains such as the Rockin’ and Rollin’ Geology Train. The Rockin’ and Rollin’ Geology Trains are a direct result of Roger’s involvement with the railroad. They started as a casual conversation with Roger was telling me that he is a geologist with experience in mining. Since the railroad was created because of copper mining, it wasn’t much of a leap to creating a geology train. These trains are Roger’s babies and are a hit with our visitors.

Roger’s special talent and assistance is the lighting of the North Pole for the Polar Express. He has improved and added to the lights and sights of the North Pole for years. We have a reindeer barn, a Christmas tree, Santa’s sleigh, and of course a pole that says, North Pole so our riders on the Polar Express know when they arrive at the magical place. And every year Roger adds more lights. In fact I tease him that the North Pole is so brightly lit-up, that I receive e-mails from the astronauts on the Space Station thanking us for spreading Christmas cheer to outer space too.

Roger’s involvement and dedication to the railroad make him a very worthwhile candidate to the Management Board. The railroad is fortunate that Roger is applying for reappointed to the Management Board and that he is willing to serve another four year term. He deserves reappointment also.

The Management Board is made up of five members. I have been fortunate to have worked with these individuals for years. The five board members work together as a team. John, Randy and Roger bring unique experiences and skills to the board. The current successes that the railroad are enjoying is directly related to the dedication, skills and experience of the board members.

That’s not to say that the board members walk in lock step together all of the time. Because of their varied skills and expertise they do have disagreements. Yet, and perhaps most importantly, the board members get along and work collaboratively. Their combined efforts have led to the successful, dynamic railroad that the Nevada Northern Railway is today.

What is not widely known is that board members are not paid. They receive no money or benefits to serve. Rather it costs board members to serve on a non-profit board. All of the current board members financially support the railroad and dedicate their time and efforts to the betterment of this community treasure. Any non-profit board from around the country would be thrilled and excited to have anyone of these individuals serve on their board. That John, Randy and Roger have requested reappointment and are willing to serve another four year tern, is an outstanding opportunity not only for the railroad but also for our community.

The railroad is at a crossroads. Our operating steam locomotives are what bring our visitors to Ely. And now they need extensive work. We are on the verge of launching the Phoenix Dare. The first phase is to raise $2,000,000, in 2 years, to restore 2 locomotives back into operating condition. If we are not successful in raising this money, it is possible that in 2017, we will not have an operating steam locomotive.

The Phoenix Dare is the boldest project that the railroad has ever undertaken, except for when the community asked for the railroad thirty years ago. It is a do or die challenge. We must keep the steam locomotives in service, to continue our success. It will be hard, demanding work to raise that type of money, in Ely, in such a short time. To accomplish this goal, the Management Board needs seasoned, determined members who have the skills and willingness to guide the Phoenix Dare forward. John, Randy and Roger have these qualities. They have all agreed to be reappointed knowing of the challenges ahead.  And to insure the continued success of the railroad they should be reappointed.