Arkansas Best's Incoming CEO, Judy McReynolds, Treads Her Own Path to the Top

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 12:00 am  

Judy McReynolds is set to become the only female CEO of an Arkansas-based publicly traded company on Jan. 1.

(Video: Click here to see KFSM-TV's report on Judy McReynolds.)

When Judy McReynolds becomes president and CEO of Arkansas Best Corp. on Jan. 1, she'll be heading a trucking company that reported $50 million in losses in the 12 months ending Sept. 30.

It's an economic climate the current president and CEO, Bob Davidson, calls "unprecedented in our company's history."

McReynolds says her goal, naturally, is to return the Fort Smith company to profitability.

But that's not all. Arkansas Best, which had revenue of $1.5 billion in the last 12 months, wants to double in size within the next five to 10 years and diversify in the transportation sector, McReynolds says. It already has added almost 50 salesmen within the last year.

"It's very ambitious," she says.

At the start of 2010, McReynolds, 47, will replace Davidson, who is retiring Dec. 31 after almost 38 years with Arkansas Best. Arkansas Best is the parent company of ABF Freight System Inc., the seventh-largest trucking company in the state based on revenue. ABF, a less-than-truckload carrier, accounts for about 95 percent of Arkansas Best's revenue.

Davidson will be 62 and says, "I want to climb pyramids while my knees will still allow me to do that."

McReynolds, now senior vice president, CFO and treasurer of Arkansas Best, will become the only female CEO of an Arkansas-based publicly traded company.

Rochelle Gorman leads the privately held CalArk International Inc. of Little Rock, a much smaller trucking company. The late Vida Lampkin, who once headed HCB Bancshares of Camden, the publicly traded holding company for Heartland Community Bank, is believed to have been the first female CEO of a publicly traded company in Arkansas. Heartland, however, was taken private in 2004 and was always minuscule compared with Arkansas Best, which had 10,968 employees as of Dec. 31, 2008. ABF serves all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, Guam and Puerto Rico and 250 ports in more than 130 countries.

McReynolds, a native of Norman, Okla., has another distinction. She worked her way up to the leadership role not from the operational side of the trucking industry, as is often the case, but from the financial side, the numbers side.

This, she says, is an advantage.



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