FRANKENMUTH, MICH. – Ken Ball, a plant superintendent at Star of the West Milling Co., was recently named Milling Operative of the Year during the 116th annual conference and expo of the International Association of Operative Millers held in Spokane, Wash.
Milling & Baking News presents the award, which is given to a practicing milling operative who has made the most significant contributions to the progress of the milling operative’s plant. A $1,500 scholarship is established in the winner’s name at Kansas State University in Manhattan and given to a student in the Department of Grain Science and Industry.
Mr. Ball won the 27th annual award. An aversion to flying prevented him from attending the I.A.O.M. conference, but Charles Sosland, chairman of Sosland Publishing Co., visited the Star of the West mill in Frankenmuth this week to surprise Mr. Ball and present him the honor. Sosland Publishing Co., Kansas City, publishes Milling & Baking News. Recipients typically are presented the award at the I.A.O.M. conference, but this year Mr. Sosland asked those in attendance to keep it a secret until Mr. Ball could receive the award in person.
Mr. Ball began his career in milling nearly 40 years ago by working part-time in a Quincy, Mich., flour mill while also going to school and earning a bachelor’s degree. After completing college, he began working full-time at the flour mill in 1974. He has been there ever since and remained on the board when the mill changed hands in 1980.
Nominations for the Milling Operative of the Year are solicited several months before the award presentation. Many of Mr. Ball’s colleagues offered praise.
“Ken has been a key employee at our mill and has been supportive during the management changes over the years and tutored many new employees,” said Arthur Loeffler, president of Star of the West. “His knowledge of milling has been a tremendous asset not only to our Quincy mill but also to our other four flour mills. When it comes to sifters, he is our ‘go-to person’ at Star of the West. He has been an integral member of our team during various mill expansion projects, and we always look to him for his input.”
Michael Fassezke, vice-president of the company’s flour milling division, added, “Over the years, Ken has also been instrumental in corporate wide projects and responsibilities. He is our best internal auditor and has always been ready and willing to assist our other milling locations during our many facility upgrades and remodels. I admire his unselfish commitment to our company and the industry, as well.”
Gary Pickelmann, corporate milling superintendent at Star of the West and one of the people most responsible for championing Mr. Ball’s nomination, said, “I became acquainted with him when our company purchased the soft wheat mill he worked at in 1980. Knowing that we had someone special here made it a great joy to work closely with him and also to grow a very close personal relationship and friendship. He is a very dedicated employee both for the company as well as for his fellow employees.
Employee safety is very high on his priority list, and he makes sure, as superintendent, that all employees have a safe working environment at his location as well as at our other milling locations.”
Mr. Ball also was recognized as a strong supporter of the many associations involved in promoting the milling industry. He has served as chairman and vice-chairman of the Wolverine district of the I.A.O.M. He has attended numerous I.A.O.M. meetings.