(July 16) HOUSTON — Sysco Corp.’s executive vice president and president of North American foodservice operations has been elected president and chief operating officer, the company’s board of directors has announced.

Thomas Lankford, who has served in various capacities with the Houston-based company for more than 20 years, will succeed Richard Schnieders on Jan. 1, according to a news release. Schnieders will become Sysco’s chairman and chief executive officer Jan. 1.

Lankford began his career in foodservice distribution with the 1964 creation of his family’s business, S.E. Lankford Jr. Produce Co., the predecessor to Sysco’s Pocomoke City, Md., operating company. In 1969, he was promoted to vice president and was named president of Lankford-Sysco Food Services Inc. when the company merged with Sysco in 1981.

In 1995, after serving as chairman for three other Sysco subsidiaries between 1987 and 1994, Lankford was elected senior vice president of operations for the Northeast region, with responsibilities for 15 companies in eight states and Ontario.

Lankford moved to Sysco’s corporate headquarters in 1999 to serve as senior vice president of merchandising and multiunit sales later that year. In May 2000, he was elected to the firm’s board of directors. Sysco counts FreshPoint Inc., Houston, among its fresh produce operations.