By Jean A. Flanagan
Since Paul Gall retired from American Woodmark at the end of August, you won’t find him sitting in a rocking chair with a good book. He’s building rocking chairs, and tables and dressers and night stands. “I worked for a furniture maker all this time and never had time to actually make any with my own hands,” he laughed.
Gall came to American Woodmark for the second time in 2008. He had worked for Orange, Va. facility in 1985.
It was a tumultuous time for American Woodmark and for the entire country.
“When I came here, we had three plants,” Gall said. “In 2009, the old Moorefield plant closed and as the economy continued to struggle, the Industrial Park plant closed.
[private] “All of that work moved to this plant and we were able to absorb a lot of people, but we couldn’t hire everybody.”
But Gall said it was the consolidation, he calls it “the melting pot” of all that experience, that made the South Branch plant the success it is today.
“My greatest reward is getting to know the people,” he said. “Not just the people who work here, but the people in the community. They are truly the salt of the earth, good people. Like, I’m sure, other small towns, they look out for each other.”
And they became accepting, welcoming of Gall. He couldn’t walk down the streets of Moorefield without someone honking their horn in greeting or stopping for a conversation. “As people have come to know me, they’ve forgiven me for being a carpetbagger,” he laughed.
Gall’s management style made him popular with the people at the South Branch Plant.
“He’s a great leader, a good friend and a mentor,” said Human Resources Manager Faron Shanholtz. Gall and Shanholtz arrived at the South Branch Plant on the same day in 2009.
“His main focus is the people,” Shanholtz said. “He likes to walk out on the production floor and talk to people. He believes in a clean facility because a clean factory means a safe factory. He’s worked very hard to have the South Branch Plant the one American Woodmark depends on. There’s nothing they haven’t asked us to do that we haven’t done successfully, thanks to Paul’s leadership.
“It’s been very rewarding to work with Paul. We share the same vision.”
That vision, is that employees are valuable and valued; that people, whatever their position, are worthy of dignity and respect.
“It starts in church,” he said. “It starts being raised in a Christian home, being taught to treat others as you want to be treated. The Golden Rule. Being given a moral compass.
“I was raised in a home where dignity and respect were important. American Woodmark’s mission statement says we will treat people with dignity and respect. Their philosophy dovetails with mine.”
Gall credits American Woodmark for allowing the South Branch Plant to be successful. With the recent expansion, the South Branch Plant is very close to employing the same total number of people as were employed before the two plants closed.
“American Woodmark, as a company, supported the West Virginia workforce,” he said. “They empowered me to do what I thought needed to be done. They let me throw out the old equipment, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment went out the door. They upgraded the equipment, bought new and more efficient equipment. They’ve always stood behind the decisions I made about what was needed.”
In addition to making custom furniture, Gall and his wife plan to do some traveling.
“My wife recently retired after 34 years as a teacher,” he said. “My last day will be our 38th wedding anniversary. We’re going to start this retirement journey by going to the place we started our journey together – Maine. That’s where we went for our honeymoon.”
“We’re going to miss him terribly,” Shanholtz said. “But we’re glad he’s able to retire and do some things he’s always wanted to do.”