The CentralStar Cooperative Board of Directors, comprised of cooperative member-stockowners from throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana, is proud to announce Gary Smith as the recipient of the 2023 Pioneer Award. Established in 1977, the Pioneer Award is a testament to individuals whose dedication and visionary leadership significantly contributed to the prosperity of the cooperative and its member-stockowners.
Smith’s career, spanning from April 1977 to his retirement in March 2015, reflects a journey marked by diverse roles and a multitude of significant contributions. CentralStar Board of Directors President Paul Trierweiler, Westphalia, Mich., recalls Smith’s commitment to the organization, stating, “Gary poured his heart and soul into our cooperative. His focus on people development and teamwork transformed the cooperative into a more valuable and integrated resource for our customers and member-stockowners.”
Beginning his career as an artificial insemination (A.I.) technician-distributor in western Michigan, Smith quickly moved to the role of A.I. training specialist for west Michigan and Indiana. In 1980, he assumed the position of regional sales manager for northern and central Michigan, where he was instrumental in the development and implementation of a computerized-mobile-sales program. Smith is responsible for the creation of the cooperative’s inaugural sales-training program and the establishment of a consultative-selling team, which better positioned the organization to integrate sales and service to dairy producers.
From 1988 to 1997, Smith served as director of marketing and sales, and then sales manager. In 1997, he took on the role of director of agriculture sales and technologies and was tasked with forging a new revenue stream for the cooperative. Under his direction, herd-management-product sales and technical-consultative services experienced exponential growth from $197,000 to more than $2 million, annually.
Recognizing Smith’s exceptional expertise and leadership qualities, in 2003, the board of directors appointed him as general manager and executive vice president. Over the next 12 years, his leadership resulted in revenue growth nearly doubling to $25 million, creating the opportunity to distribute more than $5.1 million in patronage to member-stockowners.
Smith’s commitment to fostering a robust team is evident in the establishment of a learning culture and the creation of service-specialist teams, both aimed to enhance outcomes for customers. Recognizing the importance of a collaborative approach at the cooperative, Smith shared, “Implementing a team approach at that time was critical to advancing the cooperative. Our offerings had expanded to include DHI services, research and development, and diagnostic testing, so it was time to bring everyone together for the benefit of customers.”
Smith’s retirement in March 2015 marked the end of an era characterized by exceptional dedication and visionary leadership “The Pioneer Award is a fitting tribute to a career marked by selfless dedication, innovative leadership, and a commitment to the success of the cooperative and its member-stockowners,” said Trierweiler.