Mike Legg: Purchasing and Materials 12/74-4/83

I hired on the Mop as a management trainee in December 1974. Jim Hamilton in Personnel made me the offer after interviewing with George Graham of the Operating Department. During the second month of the program I was in the Purchasing Department and after hearing that Procurement was my Air Force secondary profession Don Rettinger offered me a position in the P&M Department, which I accepted.

My first position after the program was Purchasing Supervisor handling assorted projects such as listing all fuel credit cards held by vehicle operators and reducing the number per vehicle to three maximum. I also participated in the TCS 4.3 implementation based in Sparta, IL in 1975.

My most interesting position was Purchasing Manager for Engineering and Petroleum. This was a widely varied area and involved managing a pipeline project in N. Little Rock and obtaining adequate fuel supplies in a period of a fuel shortage. We also designed and acquired the first fuel metering systems for the different fueling locations.

The best part of the MoPac was its overall desire to get the job done. This was in an era before massive committees had to review every decision over and over before it could be implemented. MoPac was respected as a successful business that had done what it took to make a good profit through the right improvements. I felt we were respected in the industry not because we were flashy but because we accomplished so much without making a spectacle of ourselves.

The late 70’s and early 80’s were times of major change in the rail industry with more communication and cooperation between the railroads. The first stand-alone Purchasing officers group was formed under the National Association of Purchasing Management replacing a sub-committee formerly under the AAR Mechanical Division. I made contacts there that were beneficial to the rest of my career.

The passage of the Staggers Act was a major force of change that hastened the merger era. I was fortunate to be on the team for the Union Pacific merger in 1982 that merged the two departments together. This was repeated years later with merger projects at the UP. There was a feeling of apprehension during the UP merger that comes from a major change in a previously secure environment. I had met several of my Union Pacific counterparts through the industry organizations I referred to above, so I had a feeling of who and what we were getting involved with. The biggest difference I saw was the way UP spent money in those days and the political environment within and outside the company. Union Pacific was a major player in Omaha and everyone knew the Union Pacific. My mentor Ed Pigeon always said it would be a lot easier getting used to their spending than them having to get used to our frugality.

Missouri Pacific was a somewhat invisible member of the St Louis business community in that three out of four people I would with meet away from the office had never heard of us, yet we were one of the most successful companies in the city at the time.

The question about labor relations was also a major difference. My fellow trainee and good friend Wayne Naro was in Labor Relations, so I was able to acquire a lot of knowledge through him. MoPac was pretty advanced in its ability to consolidate older agreements into new agreements covering the entire system. The management viewpoint in my mind was tough –but fair – and I believe both sides respected the other. This was not the case in Omaha, which made me realize how well we had functioned as a company.

I was fortunate in that we did not relocate much during my career; however, I did travel considerably. There were several times we wondered if sticking with the railroad was worth it. When I started, you felt like you were hiring into a career. You and your company had a mutual loyalty and respect for each other. This began to change in the 90’s, however, as it did throughout industry with loyalty focused on the stockholders at the expense of the employee.

There was a song that talked about the good old days and how you don’t realize you are in the good old days until later. The good old days for me, and the railroads, were when I was working for Missouri Pacific.