What brought you to Volvo Group Trucks, Hagerstown?
I joined Mack in Winnsboro, South Carolina in August 1987. I was hired into IT, but I didn’t like the hours I was working, so when the floor manager said if you want to work the production line, I’ll give you a job. I said okay. I was placing engines in the chassis, putting on tires, fuel tanks, batteries, and anything else they told me to do. From there, they were in need of new maintenance people. I already had a background in electrical engineering, so I moved to maintenance and worked the rest of my time there performing various electrical jobs and doing PLC. That’s how I ended up being involved in all the computer programming. When Mack closed Winnsboro, I was invited to go to New River Valley to install the Mack assembly line there. I was one of six people who were asked to go, and we thought it was a short-term assignment that would then end our careers with Mack. But we were invited to stay at Volvo, so I took a position there on the line as an electrician for two years.
Then I had recall rights to the Lehigh Valley Operations and the Hagerstown plants, and I decided to come here in 2004. After about a year I was asked if I wanted to be a controls engineer, and that’s when I came out of the Union. I was working on a 16L engine line, and despite me dropping an engine off the back of the line (no one was hurt!), they moved me over to install the 11 and 13L engine line. That was how the whole journey began here in Hagerstown.
Then I was on a whirlwind of installing equipment, renovating the entire plant. How many people can say that? In the background, my mind runs so fast, and I always crave information. If I didn’t understand how to make it work, I would always go take a class. I just kept going and going. They actually had to call me to tell me I had my degree in project management, because I didn’t even know. It’s about the journey, it’s not about getting to the end of it. All these projects are just part of the journey. I convinced everyone that you needed to have Maintenance in the projects because we’re actually the ones taking care of the equipment in the end. Production owns it but you’re giving this baby to us to be the nursemaid of it.
And now the Maintenance Director role, who would have ever thought? I had no clue, had no ambition for it, but I’m glad to have it. We have a journey ahead of us because Maintenance is supposed to be a main supporter of everything that goes on in our plant. We’re not just a sideline group that waits for stuff to break. Everybody laughs about my illustration of a man in bibbed overalls who has a rag in his back pocket and an oil can in his hand. He’s a maintenance guy, walking around machines, with everyone saying "I wonder if that oil can ever runs-out of oil." That man is learning the machine and taking care of the small things. It’s not the big things that get us, it’s the many small things that stack up. So right now, the push is to get people to understand that we are supposed to know that machine and every little sound that comes out of that machine, to interpret those sounds, just like you would a baby. That’s why we have the 4 jobs (I do my job, I improve my job, I develop myself, I develop my team). I encourage my team to reinvigorate, regenerate, remember where you come from, remember your roots and move forward with it. We are a key component to the survival of Hagerstown.
What does “We are the Heart” mean to you?
We’re the drivers of that life blood. Look at the body and all the vessels and how everything works and is interconnected, but if the heart doesn’t beat, everything else doesn’t move. We are the heart means we are the key component to our own survival. We are the one that perpetuates the life blood.
Why do you keep the heart beating?
I’m here to motivate everyone to challenge themselves. We’ve gotta move forward. It means I have to be the one to display energy, drive, and confidence. Challenge, challenge, challenge in a respectful way. When you walk through my door, you see I have one word on it, push. Push, we must constantly challenge ourselves. We’re moving in the right direction.
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
I never thought of that. I feel honor and responsibility to the people and the company that have taken me this far. I’ve had struggles in my past with family, with cancer and even with some mental health issues, and throughout all of that Mack and Volvo have been a key role allowing me flexibility, to deal with everything, without hesitation. So it’s time to pay back. You honor those who honor you; that’s the way I feel about it. I guess it’s the honor, the privilege to say I’ve had some small part in making the company successful.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Trying to get all of us in Hagerstown to see the same picture. We get pushed into silos because of production demands, because of things like COVID, reduction of orders and downsizing and then ramping up for high demands. The yo-yo effect doesn’t breed for positive enforcement, it breeds self-preservation. We have to keep pushing forward. Instead of thinking I have to get this done for me, it’s we have to get this done for all of us. Yeah, the hardest part is to get everyone together; you have to remember it’s not just about you. When we get caught-up in our own headspace, we don’t see our fellow man.
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I’m extremely proud of my son and what he’s done so far in his life. He’s a nurse now, a travelling nurse and a flight nurse. To see him push, and to see the training that his mother and I have instilled in him has gone a long way.
I love kayaking now. One of the guys here introduced me, and I haven’t let go of it yet. And my music studio, I love music. I love all kinds of music. I learned how to play blue grass when I was in Virginia. I learned how to make sounds and record, so I built a recording studio in my house. I like guitars and I’m stuck on ukuleles right now. In June, my son’s taking me to Hawaii, so I’ll be there for 9 days and I’ll be hitting all the ukuleles festivals. That’s me. I’m a completely opposite person out of here. I’m an introvert which people find hard to believe. But this is what I’m paid to do. I’m paid to be an extrovert and to rally the troops together. When I go home, I’m pretty quiet. I go out on the rivers and lakes and just like to watch nature and listen to music, and that’s me in a nutshell.