Posted 6/17/2013 12:00 am
Arkansas Business 20th Annual 40 Under Forty
• The original Class of 1999 profiles
• 2013 Updates from this week's digital edition of Arkansas Business.
Judy McReynolds didn’t necessarily foresee a career in trucking, though the industry has been pretty good to her so far.
Once a pioneering female executive at Arkansas Best Corp., McReynolds, a member of the Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 Class of 1999, is now CEO of the trucking company, headquartered in Fort Smith. “I would never admit to having known I’d be CEO of a trucking company,” McReynolds said.
Looking back, however, her career trajectory seems inevitable. McReynolds left Ernst & Young in Little Rock to join Arkansas Best in the late 1990s and, as controller, she became the company’s first female executive officer.
“I always wanted to be a leader in our company and was given the opportunity to do that,” McReynolds, 51, said of her rise from controller to chief financial officer to CEO. “It came early on, and with increasing opportunity I took on that challenge. You’re involved in the company’s most important decisions.”
Perhaps McReynolds’ most significant task has been helping the company through the recession. Trucking is one of the nation’s leading economic indicators and the downturn was hard on the industry. “It’s been rough. 2009 was for everybody the worst recession since the Great Depression,” McReynolds said. “And trucking was no exception.”
The marketplace is improving, McReynolds said, but her industry is still grappling with a problematic economy, a shortage of drivers and, in Arkansas Best’s case, union labor negotiations.
“Our company, like most companies today — we have our challenges but with the people we have assembled we have opportunities,” she said.
McReynolds is a member of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Foundation Board and president of the Westark Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, continuing her interest in scouting that began when both her sons, now in their late teens and early 20s, were much younger.