From his days at an Aldi supermarket bread plant to today’s Baker’s Pride donut operation, Robert Brookhart, president of the Burlington, IA-based company, has been the bakery’s centrifugal force.

Mr. Brookhart began in bakery by bagging bread at age 19 in Burlington’s Aldi facility, and he worked for the company until it was sold in 2007.

However, he never truly left the facility, and in some ways, he’s never left the line at all.

“I came from production, so I sometimes have a difficult time staying out of production,” he said. “I like to be involved, even though I try to step back and give people the reins and responsibility.”

Mr. Brookhart looks for employees with a work ethic as strong as his, and he rewards it. This is what he saw in Jacob Quinn, whom he promoted from the production line to assistant foreman and, eventually, QA manager.

But he also strikes a balance between empowerment and involvement. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see Mr. Brookhart on the production floor of  the Jefferson Street facility, conducting impromptu quality control on his products, inspecting bags on the AMF bagger and pulling a loaf right off the line and checking it, slice by slice.

After all, an AMF bagger was where he got his start, and he hasn’t forgotten — and he hasn’t left — where he came from.