From Operator to Plant Manager: Jeff Opening Doors for his Team

Jeff began his career at Tessenderlo Kerley at an entry-level position. 

Today, Jeff is the manager of Tessenderlo Kerley’s facility in Fresno, California – and one of his top goals is ensuring that his team members have the tools to advance their careers, as well. 

“We’re trying to push people to want to move up, not just stay content with the status quo,” Jeff said. “Tessenderlo Kerley has been very good in the sense of being a job you can make a career out of.” 

Jeff joined Tessenderlo Kerley in 2010 as an entry-level operator. His desire to learn new skills eventually earned him an assistant plant manager position in Fresno before he earned the head manager role in 2021.  

Jeff’s day-to-day duties include overseeing and assisting with critical maintenance issues, planning and reviewing his facility’s budget, and ensuring products reach customers on schedule.  

It’s a role that is crucial to Tessenderlo Kerley’s mission of ensuring farmers allow Americans to put food on the table for their families. 

“We’re working in agriculture, so we’re part of everything that we do as a country in the sense of feeding America,” Jeff said. 

As a former operator, Jeff understands what his team members in Fresno need to succeed, and what it will take for them to advance their careers the same way he did. He has helped Tessenderlo Kerley develop a training program to do just that. 

“It’s kind of a roadmap to what needs to be worked on to advance to the next level. We’re doing a lot of work on helping to develop and grow operators to have more tools in the chest,” he said. “Working with everybody on developing and growing their knowledge and what they bring to the table is what I like best.” 

Jeff also understands the importance of giving his team members a voice, both in terms of day-to-day plant operations and learning about their personal and professional needs.  

“We push a big open-door policy here. I like to hear their feedback and understand where they’re coming from, and what things we can do to try to make things better for them,” he said. “It’s always important to take a step back and look at things. I look at what I can do to make things easier while still following policy and staying safe. And we make sure they know they’re appreciated. Those things go a long way.” 

Jeff said the camaraderie at the Fresno facility is one of his favorite things about his job.  

“Most of the guys do consider Tessenderlo Kerley a second family,” he said. “They’ve developed those relationships where they hang out outside of work and talk about things other than work, and they get down on more of a personal level than always being work-related stuff.” 

Jeff’s dedication to acquiring new skills helped get him to where he is today, and he and his family have benefitted greatly from the opportunity. He remains dedicated to ensuring his team members in Fresno have those same opportunities. 

“It’s all about how much you want to put into something,” he said. “If you want it, it’s there for you.”