UPDATE: Judy McReynolds to Succeed Davidson as Arkansas Best CEO

Robert A. Davidson, current president and CEO of Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith, has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31, and the publicly traded less-than-truckload carrier named Judy R. McReynolds, current senior vice president and chief financial officer, as his successor.

Davidson, who will be 62 when he retires, has spent nearly 38 years with Arkansas Best and has been its president and CEO since February 2006. He is also resigning from the board of directors.

Judy R. McReynolds, 47, joined Arkansas Best in 1997 and has been SVP and CFO since February 2006. She came to Arkansas Best from another publicly traded transportation company after several years in public accounting.  

"During her time at our company, Judy has displayed a combination of intelligence, integrity and energy," Davidson said in a news release announcing the changes. "She exhibits the steady leadership that was established by our founder, Robert A. Young Jr. and that continues today through our chairman, Robert A. Young III. In her role as chief financial officer, Judy has worked closely with me in developing the strategic initiatives that will allow Arkansas Best to grow and prosper for many years to come. We all can look forward to a bright future for our company under her leadership."

McReynolds will be the only woman CEO among publicly traded companies in Arkansas.

The majority of those participating in Arkansas Best's third-quarter earnings conference call Wednesday, after the announcement, used the opportunity to congratulate both Davidson and McReynolds.

One caller, however, jokingly offered condolences to McReynolds, referring to the tough economic times that have hit the trucking industry. Arkansas Best also announced a third-quarter net loss of $5.6 million or 23 cents a share.

McReynolds took the joke in stride, laughing as she addressed the caller.

"Let's hope that we can see a brighter future ... but [this downturn] has been unprecedented and we have to be prepared for it to stay that way for a while."

(Rob Keys of the Northwest Arkansa Business Journal contributed to this report.)