MVRRA Celebrates Julie Rath’s Retirement and Welcomes McKenzie Fischer to the Team

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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Longtime Administrator Julie Rath Retiring in 2023; McKenzie Fischer Will Be New MVRRA Administrator

After nearly 20 years with the Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA), Julie Rath, Administrator, is retiring. McKenzie Fischer will be taking over Rath’s role in 2023. Rath, who started working for MVRRA in December 2003, shared some of the changes and improvements at MVRRA during her time as administrator.

One of Rath’s many accomplishments was to modernize the MVRRA administration functions. As Rath explained, “back in 2003, MVRRA did all of their bookkeeping by hand, and we started doing all their record-keeping using Quickbooks. As their administrator, I had a lot to learn and helped them get organized with their monthly meetings, agendas, and minutes, and working with them on organizing their license agreements with municipalities and utilities that needed access to our right of way to install or maintain utilities that run linear or lateral in our railroad track right of way, either overhead or underground and billing them annually for their utility in our ROW.”

MVRRA, said Rath, “is a statutorily formed unit of government of the State of Minnesota organized in 1982. We serve 16 communities along our track, which is located from Norwood Young America to Hanley Falls, MN, and covers 94.7 miles! The MVRRA board consists of a designated shipper, and one appointed county commissioner from Carver, Sibley, Renville, Redwood, and Yellow Medicine Counties.”

MVRRA’s Rail Relay Project was another major improvement during Rath’s tenure. “MVRRA did an initial upgrade to the track starting back in 2002 by stabilizing the track with new ties, and ballast,” said Rath. “With the assistance of state and federal funding, we have completed rail relay which means replacing rail from 1912 with new continuous welded rail from NYA to Gibbon, and we are currently working on the next 9 miles from Gibbon to Fairfax,” shared Rath.

Other improvements made as part of the Rail Relay Project include replacing culverts and trestle bridges with new bridges or concrete box culverts. “We have just completed the replacement of the Crow Creek trestle bridge with a new steel concrete structural bridge which is pretty amazing compared to what we have been operating on over the years,” said Rath.

Rath reflected on her time as administrator, she shared, “knowing nothing really about the rail industry, I've learned a lot over the past 20 years! I've completely enjoyed my time working with the Rail Authority and the shippers along our line, and the MPLI who is our contract operator. Great profession to get into as a career path if you enjoy trains and working outside.”

Rath also noted that MVRRA is a huge economic development driver for the 16 communities and five counties it serves, describing it as “the little railroad with an ‘I think I can’ attitude. As the rail service has improved, so has the opportunity for new economic development opportunities along our track!”

Fischer is slated to move into the administrator role in 2023. Fischer was an intern at MVRRA from December 2021 to May 2022 and was hired full-time in May 2022 when she graduated from Minnesota State Mankato. Rath has been teaching her everything she needs to know and she is prepared to take over this position. “She brings great skill sets, and marketing ideas with her for the RADC, as well as the new administrator for MVRRA,” said Rath.

Fischer’s priority, once she starts, is to continue updating the track. Fischer explained, “right now, we are working on updating the track from Gibbon to Fairfax, MN. My goal for the future with the rail authority is to see the railroad track get rehabbed past North Redwood to better serve the community and the shippers around here.”

“I am looking forward to meeting and growing my relationships with everyone on the board as well as everyone we work with to keep the railroad in service,” said Fischer, adding, “this summer I got to see what the process is like for upgrading the railroad tracks as well as replacing the Crow Creek Bridge. It’s been a very interesting job so far and I’ve really enjoyed seeing these projects through from the bidding to the actual completion of our projects.”

Fischer is also focused on making the transition from Rath to her as seamless as possible. “It’s truly been an honor to be able to work side by side with Julie this last year and I am confident that with the knowledge I have and continue to gain from Julie, the rail authority will continue to meet our goals,” said Fischer.

Though she’ll be retired now, Rath said, “I will still keep my eye out for the railroad, it has been a privilege and honor to serve in this capacity for 19 years!”

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