A former CFO of the Department of Veterans Affairs will take the finance controls at Amtrak later this month. William Campbell will start his new job on May 21, five months after the railroad reorganized its management team.
Treasurer Dale Stein has held the position on an interim basis since mid-December, when Amtrak announced the departure of several top executives, including chief financial officer David Smith. As we reported in November 2005, Smith faced a nearly impossible to-do list: cope with uncertain funding, pay down Amtrak’s borrowings, upgrade its information technology and financial skills, and wring concessions from entrenched unions. As one industry observer remarked at the time, “I can’t imagine a tougher job than being CFO at Amtrak.”
Indeed, Amtrak’s debt load reportedly exceeds $3.5 billion, the railroad has never turned a profit, and the finance chief will need to cope with continuing uncertainty regarding government subsidies from an Administration not known for fully supporting the railroad. “We’re not financially self-sufficient,” Smith told CFO in 2005, “and, realistically, we probably never will be.”
Campbell certainly brings aboard considerable experience in dealing with government entities, including a nine-year tour as chief financial officer for the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1999, the Coast Guard became the first armed service to receive an unqualified audit opinion, according to a press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Hired by the VA as deputy CFO, in 2002 he was sworn in as the department’s assistant secretary for management and CFO, where he oversaw a $65 billion annual budget. He resigned less than three years later. Most recently, he was a director in KPMG’s Federal CFO Advisory Services group.
At Amtrak, Campbell will report to president Alexander Kummant, who has been with the railroad since September.