Guest Blog: My 30 Years At Mahaska

By: Phil Smith, Mahaska Operations Manager

Today marks my 30th anniversary at Mahaska (formerly known as Pepsi Cola Bottling CO of Salina). I was just 24 when I found myself in a place ready for change– things were not going well at my current job and the stress level had come to the boiling point; it was time to look for greener pastures so the search ensued. By mid-July, I caught a break from the job search– I received a call from Pepsi requesting an interview, a process that was challenging (to say the least). I had a total of three interviews, and each one was filled with more people and an ever increasing number of questions. Well, I secured the job and started on August 8th, 1988, as a part-time Fleet Mechanic and Plant Maintenance Technician.

It wasn’t long after I stated that I found out why the interview process was so lengthy. It turns out the entire group consisting of the Operation, Fleet, Vending and Sales Managers, as well as the V.P. of the company had a hard time accepting that anyone my age could have as much experience as I had stated, and they finally decided to give me a shot. I must say there were moments where I doubted myself, but I wasn’t about to fail.

A lot of water has passed under my bridge since those first weeks, and Mahaska has become my home away from home. I have had the honor to meet and work with some very outstanding people along the way, and have essentially grown up in the confines of this building. Every day here brings new opportunities– never had a dull moment due to the ever-changing landscape of our industry. When I started, we had less than a 100 SKU’s; today that number is closer to 900. All jobs have their own degree of challenges, and my position of Operations Manager is a never-ending balancing act. Not one day passes without a new problem to solve, each one new and different; some will turn your hair white while others make you laugh at the chaos of it all. Either way, Mahaska has been a great place to grow up.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know four generations of the Muhl family over the past 30 years. Each one different from the next, but all driven with purpose and passion for their business. I feel fortunate to have been able to work for people of such integrity. I have found each and every Muhl owner to be outstanding in character and, honestly, have never found reason to pursue other career paths and offers that came up along the way.

I could list so many accomplishments here, and a few failures, but I would need a whole lot more room than I have here. So it is sufficient to say, it has been a great 30 years with very little disappointment, and the knowledge I have gained could never have a dollar amount applied to it. I thoroughly enjoy the work I do for my company and look forward to finishing out my working carrier with Mahaska, God willing.