Older Worker of the Year

Ruth Wiemann was named the Franklin/Jefferson County Older Worker of the Year.

Being a buyer at an automotive plant is not an easy job.

Being a woman in a rather technical and male dominated field is amazing.

And being a successful woman, at the age of 65, in such a field is remarkable.

Perhaps that is why Ruth Wiemann was selected as a regional winner of the 2012 Outstanding Older Worker.

Wiemann, has worked at Henniges Automotive Plant in New Haven for 27 years.

She left Kellwood Company — formerly Hawthorn — in 1984 after 13 years as an administrative assistant to several controllers.

Wiemann was working with her husband, James, for ServiceMaster when they were asked to clean a building on Zero Road in Berger. Later, when Bailey Corporation was established in that building, Wiemann applied and was hired in the accounting department.

A purchasing clerk position opened a couple years later.

The company had many different names between Bailey and Henniges and it moved from Berger to New Haven in 2000.

Wiemann has been working since a young age and suspects her work ethic may come, in part, from her German heritage.

“My sisters and I delivered early morning newspapers when I was around 10 years old,” she said. “I was afraid of the dog on a customer’s front porch. Consequently, that customer did not get his papers some days and the job did not last long.”

Her current job is more engaging and enjoyable.

As purchasing coordinator at Henniges, which produces automotive sealants, she has many responsibilities. Processing purchase orders unrelated to raw materials, following up with vendors to ensure timely shipping and product receipt, organizing and stocking the storeroom and handling contractor orientations and insurance compliance are among her duties.

“I work with people in maintenance, production, engineering and suppliers on a daily basis.”

Henniges Human Resources Manager Kevin Carpenter entered Wiemann into the Older Worker of the Year contest.

The contest is sponsored by various entities, notably, the Missouri Senior Employment Coordinating Committee, Missouri AARP and the Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Senior and Disability Services.

Nominees had to be Missouri residents, 65 years or older and gainfully employed at a Missouri job for an average of 20 or more hours per week.

Carpenter had to describe Wiemann’s outstanding characteristics, significant contributions to the workplace, work ethic, skills, attitude and special accomplishments as well as any volunteer service and hobbies.

Walking through the plant to see what products she helped bring in is exciting to Wiemann and working with technology means she is continuously learning.

“I enjoy working with other Henniges associates and the challenge of doing the impossible of purchasing for ‘yesterday,’” she said, meaning the need for parts and the speed of production in the company demand nearly constant purchasing.

When she was honored as the regional Outstanding Older Worker during a presentation Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Henniges plant Wiemann didn’t suspect anything related to the award.

“I thought I was going to be interviewed. So when the women came in bearing a certificate, cake, and a huge bouquet of flowers, I was frozen to my seat,” she said. “They carried it off really well!”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites a large share of people 65 and older staying in or returning to work. Between 1977 and 2007, the number of employed 65 and over increased 101 percent. Employment of men 65 and over rose 75 percent, while the number of women 65 and over who were employed climbed 147 percent.

Wiemann said she knows a number of individuals who continue to work at an older age. Her mother was one such person.

“My mother worked until she was in her 70s. Not working has never been a desire nor an option. This is what we do … the American way,” she said.

As the winner in the Franklin/Jefferson County areas, Wiemann has been invited to Jefferson City for an awards ceremony and is looking forward to it.

The event, Oct. 30-31, will recognize all the regional winners before announcing the state Older Worker of the Year.