Houston-based Sysco Corp, the largest foodservice marketer and distributor in the US, has announced that its board of directors has elected Thomas E. Lankford as president and COO.

Lankford, currently executive VP and president of US foodservice operations, will assume his new duties effective 1 January 2003. Lankford's appointment is in accordance with Sysco's management succession plan. He will succeed Richard J. Schnieders, who on 1 January 2003 will become Sysco's chairman and CEO.

Lankford, 54, began his career in foodservice distribution at the founding in 1964 of his family's business, S.E. Lankford, Jr. Produce Company, the predecessor to Sysco's Pocomoke City operating company.

After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1969 with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics, he was promoted to VP, then was named president of Lankford-Sysco Food Services, when S.E. Lankford, Jr. Produce Company merged with Sysco in 1981.

He also subsequently served as chairman of three other Sysco subsidiaries between 1987 and 1994. In 1995, Lankford was elected senior VP, operations, northeast region, with responsibilities for 15 companies located in eight states as well as Sysco's operation in Ontario.

In 1999, Lankford relocated to Sysco's corporate office as senior VP, merchandising and multi-unit sales, and he progressed to executive VP, merchandising services and multi-unit sales later that same year. In May 2000, he was elected to the board of directors, and in July of that year was named executive VP, foodservice operations. In January 2002 he assumed the additional responsibilities as president of Sysco's US foodservice operations.