Texas Calling

Texas Calling

Copyright 2003, Traffic World, Inc.

In the darkness of a Sunday night, Ed Emmett shoveled snow from his driveway in suburban Maryland and thought: "You know, it's 65 degrees in Houston right now."

That's not the reason he announced two days later that he is resigning as president of the National Industrial Transportation League so he can return to Texas, but it might have made his decision a little easier. Ed's surprise announcement shocked the NITL Executive Committee, which had gathered in Arlington, Va., for a planning session for 2003. In retrospect his decision was very characteristic: well thought out, unselfish and well balanced between his professional and personal obligations.

Emmett went from Interstate Commerce Commissioner to the NIT League in 1992 and his name has been synonymous with "the Voice of the Shipper" ever since. (See Associate Editor John D. Schulz's full report on page 8.)

Why walk away now? The job can't be the challenge that it once was. But in the end it was a personal and family decision that he and his wife, Gwen, return to Texas.

"My oldest daughter and her child and husband are moving to Houston in March, where he is going to be at Texas Children's Hospital. He's graduated from medical school. I have a son and his fianc? at Rice University and then the final piece was my youngest daughter got early acceptance to Austin College down in Sherman, Texas," Emmett said. That put all but one child, a son who is returning to India to live on an ashram, back on the Emmetts' old stomping grounds. "So Gwen and I said, 'We know we're going to go to Houston sooner or later. Why don't we do it now?'"

With the decision made, the next question was when to notify the NITL board. Its executive committee was meeting with Emmett to talk about league plans for the next year. "I just became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that I'd sit in that meeting and not tell them that, oh, by the way, I'm not going to be here all year. I guess if I wasn't such an eternal optimist I would have said I've got to hang on and be sure I have a job lined up before I tell them, but I just didn't feel comfortable doing it," he said.

Announcing his intention to leave in May will let the organization select a new leader and conduct a smooth transition, although it leaves Emmett's future a bit hazy. But it was a wise and selfless choice to put the NIT League's needs before his personal desires.

"Hopefully I won't be sacking groceries at Randall's Food Market," Emmett joked. He needn't worry. His resume is impressive, with eight years as a Texas state legislator, two stints running other associations, four years running his own consulting firm and three years with Exxon Corp. "I hope I can be in the same genre of work," freight transportation policy, he said.

This is a pivotal time for NIT League. Over the last decade, its emphasis on legislative and regulatory issues has declined as the importance of education and training has increased. The league's Vision 2020 plan has widened the scope and given carrier members a vote in association affairs. And there are other transportation associations that might benefit from merging with NITL. The changing focus of the league may mean that the new president's job will be very different from the one Emmett was given, which is one reason that he wants nothing to do with selecting a successor.

"Once the announcement was made I relaxed and felt pretty good about things," he said. "Now the next knot will come up over how my house will sell. And for how much and what will we be able to buy in Houston and I know whoever I have to deal with on the mortgage at that end is going to say, 'Do you have a job?'"

"No" might be the answer. But he had a good one here for the last 10 years and did it well.