PRESIDENT Jeff Garrels
Jeff Garrels works in the Operating Practice and Rules team within the safety and technical training department on the BNSF Railroad, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, where his current position is Director of Operating Rules.
In his current role, he has oversight of all BNSF’s operating rules which include but are not limited to GCOR, SSI, Dispatching Practices, and Maintenance of Way.
Currently, Jeff is the acting chairman for BNSF’s System Locomotive Cab Committee and represents BNSF on the General Code of Operating Rules Committee.
Jeff began his railroad career with the Santa Fe Railroad in 1995, working as a Conductor. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to Locomotive Engineer working various routes along BNSF’s southern trans-con Chicago to LA.
Jeff continued to expand upon his railroad career by serving as a company officer, including Train Master, Road Foreman of Engines, Manager of Corridor Operations, Locomotive Engineer Instructor, Senior Manager of Locomotive Engineer Training at the BNSF Technical Training Center, and the Director of Train Handling located in Fort Worth, Texas.
Prior to beginning his railroad career he served in the US Navy, within the submarine fleet as an electrical nuclear power operator.
Jeff currently lives with his wife in Fort Worth.
Past President Don Marson
My career started in August of 1973 on the Canadian Pacific’s Saint John Division, which cut through the State of Maine for exactly 200 miles. After nine years with the Canadian Pacific I moved on to the Maine Central and then moved on to several other railroads throughout the country including the : Southern Pacific, Santa Fe, Wisconsin Central, Kansas City Southern, New Hampshire Central and finally the Maine Eastern Railroad.
I have been employed as an Agent-Operator, Towerman, Train Dispatcher, Assistant Chief Dispatcher, Chief Dispatcher, Conductor, Engineer, DSLE, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Planning and Control, Director of Locomotive Utilization, Manager of Locomotive Utilization, Assistant Manager of Locomotive Utilization, General Director System Operation Center, Director of Rules and Training, and finally Vice President and General Manager.
In addition to the railroads I have also been employed by GE Transportation supporting PTC and CAD products that were offered. I worked for Lockheed Martin on PTC projects both domestically and internationally.
I retired from the railroad in June of 2013 with 31.5 years of service. Currently I continue to do consulting work - focusing on teaching rules and safe practices to the shortline industry.
I enjoy living in my native State of Maine with my wife Linnay and our cats. We continue to explore the roads less traveled throughout this beautiful state. My passion is my hobby of photography that has spanned for over four decades.
Past President Mike Mattson
Mike Mattson was installed as the IAROO President during the Omaha conference on October 3, 2016. Mike began his railroad career with Montana Rail Link in 1989 in the Maintenance of Way Department. After three years he transferred to the Operating Department as a Switchman working in Missoula, Montana. After four years Mike attended Locomotive Engineer training and was promoted in 1996 while at the same time he began filling in as a part time Assistant Trainmaster/Yardmaster.
In order to escape the harsh winter weather of Montana and to be able to pursue his passion for golf, Mike went to work as a Locomotive Engineer for the UPRR in 1998, working in Texas and Arizona. He continued working and golfing for 5 years with UPRR and then returned home to Missoula and Montana Rail Link in 2003 as a Locomotive Engineer, was promoted to Assistant Trainmaster/Yardmaster in 2004 followed by another promotion in 2005 to his current position as Trainmaster/Roadforeman in Missoula. Mike has participated in many special projects for Montana Rail Link and plays an integral role in training, rules and safety.
Mike resides in Missoula with his wife, Heather and two children.
Past President Foster Peterson
Foster has been involved in the railroad industry since the 1980's, both at shortline railroads and as a railroad consultant. He is the President of the railroad consulting practice of Full Service Railroad Consulting, Inc. and an operating manager at two shortline railroads.
Foster works with the Tennessee Valley Railroad and its subsidiaries (East Chattanooga Belt Railway, Hiwassee River Railroad Co., and the Tyner Terminal Railway) as Director of Safety and Operating Practices, where he is responsible for the operating and safety rules training of their operating, mechanical, and engineering employees. He is also a certified conductor, locomotive engineeWr and Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers for Tennessee and North Georgia as well as its' joint operations with Norfolk Southern.
Foster also works as Manager of Operating Practices and Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, which operates excursion trains in the southern part of Alaska and into British Columbia and the Yukon Territory of Canada.
In 1994 hired out for one of BNSF's predecessor roads, the Santa Fe Railway, in Clovis, NM as a Conductor/Brakeman/Switchman.
Past President Aaron Ratledge
In 1997 he acquired his locomotive engineer certificate operating various train types throughout the state of New Mexico from Clovis to Carlsbad and predominately Clovis to Belen.
In 2000, Aaron started his management career with BNSF in Clovis as an Assistant Trainmaster followed by several promotions where he was a Trainmaster (St. Louis), a Road Foreman of Engines (Birmingham, AL), Senior Manager of Train Handling (Ft. Worth, TX), a Superintendent of Operating Practices (Kansas City) and a Superintendent of Operations covering the Eastern Half of BNSF's Kansas Division (Kansas City).
In 2011, Aaron was promoted to BNSF Railway's Director of Train Handling and Operating Practices. And just recently, was promoted to General Director Operating Practices overseeing all aspects of BNSF's Operating Practices Department. Including and not limited to, Air Brake and Train Handling, Train Make-up rules, Remote Audit and Energy Management Programs.