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TFC’s Legacy of Leadership



J. B. Jones
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This month’s celebration of Co-op’s 75th anniversary honors the leaders of Tennessee Farmer Cooperative. Five years ago, the September issue of The Cooperator included several articles – including one on TFC’s six CEOs – to commemorate the Co-op’s 70th anniversary. These articles were penned by Jerry Kirk, who served as editor of The Cooperator for 29 years until his retirement in 2001 and remained for 16 more years in a part-time capacity, continuing to craft the beloved monthly column, “As I Was Saying,” and providing valued editing expertise. As we dedicate this month’s anniversary article to honoring leadership, we think it’s fitting to pay tribute to Jerry with the following reprint of his article, “Ability, stability at the top are keys to TFC’s success,” which has been updated and edited for length.

When J. B. Jones, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s first general manager, hired Gibson County native J. Franklin Nix, an animated go-getter who could — and would — talk to just about anybody on any subject — he unknowingly launched a pattern of top-post succession that served our Co-op system well during the earliest part of its seven-decade history.

Only six men have held TFC’s highest management position, now known as chief executive officer, in the organization’s 75-year history. Each was highly qualified for the job and dedicated to the Co-op cause.

J. B. Jones, a native Kentuckian, was hired Jan. 1, 1946, by TFC’s first board and began working at the cooperative’s temporary headquarters in Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s building in Columbia. He hired Nix, who attended the University of Tennessee at Martin and graduated from UT Knoxville, to work in the Feed Department. Nix’s first day was April 29, 1947.

When Jones stepped down as TFC’s first general manager on March 15, 1954, the board tapped Nix to replace him. Besides serving longer as general manager/CEO than anyone in TFC history, Nix was also perhaps its most colorful leader. He was engaging and seemed to enjoy stopping by employees’ desks or workplaces just to chat.

When Nix took TFC’s managerial reins in 1954, he made his trusted assistant, William E. Bailey, second in command. It was during Bailey’s service that the position’s name was changed from general manager to CEO.

When he decided to retire on April 30, 1982, without telling anyone, Nix had his secretary type up this announcement: “I feel it is time for me to go, so today I’m retiring. I’m leaving TFC in good shape and in good hands — yours. Your dedication and performance have helped make this organization the best of its kind in America.”

J. Franklin Nix died April 9, 1987, at the age of 67.

Bailey, a native of Sharon in Weakley County, became a TFC field auditor in 1952, when the cooperative was only seven years old. Total sales that year reached $7.9 million. Forty years later, when he retired in 1992, sales had soared to $298 million.

With a solid background in finance, Bailey was known locally, regionally, and nationally for his compassionate style of leadership. Upon becoming TFC’s CEO in 1982, he said simply but emphatically, “We must never forget that our system exists for the benefit of the farmers of Tennessee. Those are the people who, year after year, raise food and fiber on family farms across this state, and they’ve come to rely on their Co-op as their reliable source of products and services they need.”

Bailey and his assistant, Philip R. Walker, had a lot in common. Both were Certified Public Accountants whose expertise in all things financial was never questioned. When Bailey retired as TFC’s CEO on July 31, 1992, Walker was chosen by the board to succeed him

W.E. Bailey died unexpectedly at his Nashville home on March 18, 2010.

When Walker took the helm, TFC sales totaled just under $300 million. He immediately orchestrated the first restructuring in the history of the organization, the results of which were reported as “record-shattering.” Year after year, sales and savings reached all-time highs.

During his tenure, Walker emphasized the hiring of capable, committed employees: “We like employees who are dedicated to the cause. We try to train them in that way. We look for people who have farm backgrounds and those who are not looking to change jobs every year but will stay with us for the long run.”

As its fifth CEO, Vernon L. Glover was instrumental in strengthening TFC’s balance sheet. He launched his Co-op career on TFC’s training program. He was assigned to TFC Marketing, Inc., a grain marketing subsidiary headquartered at LaVergne.

In 1972, Glover was named manager of Greene Farmers Cooperative in East Tennessee and in 1976 returned to Middle Tennessee to manage Lawrence Farmers Cooperative in Lawrenceburg and Marshall Farmers Cooperative in Lewisburg from 1979-91.

Glover rejoined the TFC staff in 1991 as a general fieldman and became regional sales manager in 1992. In August 1993, he was named vice president of member and administrative services and became CEO on Aug. 1, 1997, succeeding Walker when he retired. Glover himself retired Jan. 2, 2006, after 36 years of service.

TFC’s current CEO, Bart Krisle, has been at the helm since Glover’s retirement. A Certified Public Accountant, Krisle began his TFC career in 1983 as a field auditor and moved to the Internal Auditing Department in 1987. The next year, he became manager of the Member Support Department in the information services area. He was named Region 2 operations specialist in 1992 and held that position until being appointed to fill the new management post of chief operations officer in 1999.

During Krisle’s tenure, TFC’s yearly average earnings have more than doubled. He was responsible for the formations of Co-op Financial Solutions and GreenPoint and has led the initiatives to strategically align the operating departments.

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