My first involvement with the Timber Processing Man of the Year award was in February 1989: I was with the company less than a year and coming off my first big West Coast article-gathering trip, visiting such interesting and well-run mills as Big Creek Lumber in Davenport, Calif., Crane Mills in Paskenta and Modoc Lumber in Klamath Falls, Ore.
In conjunction with what was then the Miller Freeman version of the Portland, Ore. sawmill show, Timber Processing held a banquet at the Red Lion Lloyd Center in town to honor first Timber Processing Man of the Year Duane Vaagen of Vaagen Brothers Lumber in Colville, Wash.
Only when it came time for the show to go on, more than half the Timber Processing crew arriving from Alabama was more than a little late due to airline and weather issues. For a couple of hours, there was no one there but myself and a couple of sales reps and their wives, the Vaagen Lumber crew—and a wet bar in the corner of the ballroom that took a solid hit before the Alabama folks arrived, fresh from their flights and tossing their luggage in a big pile in the back of the room as they hit the door and got the show on the road.
Looking at the TP Man of the Year articles I’ve written during the past 25 years brings back some memories:
- One of my earliest (and perhaps most nerve-wracking) public speaking experiences in 1993, when I made a few remarks in delivering John Hampton his award in a cavernous ballroom at some grand hotel in downtown San Francisco during a luncheon at the Western Wood Products Assn.’s annual meeting.
- Marveling at the beautiful Port Orford cedar lumber, beams, paneling and other products at C&D Lumber, nestled in a small valley in southwest Oregon in Riddle when I first visited the quality focused mill in 1996. Then later having the good fortune to meet and dine with friends and colleagues of award-winner Bud Johnson—a man who had a true twinkle in his eyes when talking about sawmilling and his company—at a much smaller and intimate event that stood in deep contrast to Hampton’s award ceremony, but every bit as enjoyable and significant.
- Braving some seriously icy and snow-studded roads on an early morning drive from Susanville over to Chester, Calif. on a bitterly cold and windy day to meet, interview and photograph 1998 TP Man of the Year Jim Quinn at the Collins Co. mill on beautiful Lake Almanor.
- Listening to the deep conviction of 2007 winner Bob Jordan in North Carolina as he spoke about his hopes and goals for the role his business and the industry overall could play in his community, state and larger economy.
- Enjoying the sheer speed and innovation at WKO Inc. in Carson, Wash., on the edge of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge where 2011 TP Man of the Year Bill Wilkins leads a family-oriented operation.
These and the other exemplary company, community and industry leaders chronicled in TP’s Man of the Year program the past 25 years are leaders in every sense of the word, and a quarter century looking back at those enshrined make me look forward to chronicling the sawmill industry’s best of the best in the next 25 years as well.