Employee Highlight

Wendell Miller

There are a lot of things within O’Connor Company that make us unique and one of the special things is the long tradition of dedication from our employees. These days it is rare to have employees that stay with one company for decades and O’Connor is proud to have several. In this edition of the O’Connor Company Employee Spotlight, we highlight one of those employees, Wendell Miller.

You may not have had the pleasure of meeting Wendell personally, but odds are you have been affected by him at some compacity. Wendell started at O’Connor Wichita in 1977 while he was still in college at Wichita State University. While looking for a summer job he saw a posting on the student center bulletin board for warehouse/warranty work at O’Connor Company. He figured it would just be a summer job to get him through until the next semester started, but 42 years later he is still here.

Wendell transitioned from working in the warehouse to the customer service counter in the 1980s. He eventually got promoted to branch manager in the 1990s. It goes without saying that Wendell has worn just about every hat possible at O’Connor Company.

Wendell has worked with so many people and one of the joys Wendell has had all these years is meeting and working with fun and dedicated employees. Debi Turnbull, Corporate Pricing Manager, has worked with Wendell for 40 years and she recalls how important Wendell has been to O’Connor. “Wendell is that rare individual who has his priorities intact. He’s fair, honest, and dependable.” Debi goes on to add, “He is not a diamond in the rough, he is the diamond. Valuable, brilliant and bright. The real deal!”

Wendell has seen many changes throughout his time here at O’Connor both professionally and personally. In his family life, he met and married his wife, Dana, his daughter Sarah was born and now Wendell is a grandfather to James pictured here. Wendell is also excited to share that he has another grandchild on the way and looks forward to spoiling both. On the work side, Wendell went through the transition switching brands from Bryant to Trane in 1988, remembers when all of our data was stored on the WANG computer with these big plates that housed vital information, and when the Wichita branch moved from their office on Bayley street to its current location.

Lisette Stover, Warranty Administrator in Wichita has worked with Wendell for almost 27 years. “Wendell has been the best boss to work with all these years. He’s the most considerate, thoughtful and knowledgeable team player I know. He has always wanted O’Connor Company to be on top in the industry and strives to make it the best it can be by going above and beyond to achieve this goal.”

What makes Wendell such a great man is his love and compassion for his employees. “Wendell is a loyal, hard worker, good decision maker, and even-keeled,” says Bruce Bishop, Commercial Sales Wichita. Bruce and Wendell have worked together for 35 years. “He rarely complains, never gossips and is tolerant and understanding of employee’s issues whether personal or work related. I’ve been very lucky to work with Wendell for many years.”

When Wendell is not making things happen in the office he enjoys traveling with his family and watching sports. He also volunteers at Eastminster Presbyterian Church and he and Dana have opened their home and hosted seven different foreign exchange students in past years.

Wendell is a perfect example of loyalty and leadership. He eats, sleeps and breathes O’Connor. From managing and taking care of employees to loving on his grandson and family, people like Wendell are hard to find, and we are so thankful to have him on Team O’Connor. Maybe we can convince him to stay around another 40 years?

Tina Meyer

Everywhere Tina Meyer goes, she finds family. It starts at home, with her husband, Frank, two cats, and her dog, Chewie.

At her job, there is a family. Her volunteer work involves a family.

“Family is important,” Meyer said recently by phone. “If we don’t have family, what do we have?”

Her work family is the great workforce of O’Connor Company with her team in its Urbandale branch.

Meyer is the counter sales team lead, a position to which she was recently promoted. Originally from the San Francisco area, Meyer has been at O’Connor for just under four years, and she said it’s the best job she’s ever had.

“O’Connor is amazing to work for,” she said. “They care first and foremost about their employees and their customers. If you have a concern, it’s an open door here.

“It’s family oriented. They have employees who have been there for a really long time for a reason.”

When she started at O’Connor, she said she answered the phone and took parts orders. Now her job entails, among other things, warranty work, answering customers’ questions and handling their concerns. Recently, that required her to go the extra mile.

It was her turn one evening to be on-call to take after-hours customer service calls. She answered a call at about 10:30 p.m., shortly after going to bed. A customer needed to buy a part, so she went to the office to take care of that person.

There is another family for Meyer away from work. She volunteers with Adult & Teen Challenge of the Midlands, which helps people with life-controlling issues such as addiction. Meyer has served in the ministry since about 2012 and last year was presented the first Myron Towers Volunteer of the Year award.

“Teen Challenge is a huge part of my life,” she said. “I’ve had a hard life, and a lot of the students have a hard life. I know the change that God has made in me, and if God can do what he’s done in me he can do it in them.

“Teen Challenge is an amazing life-changing program. We started building relationships with the students – my husband Frank and I – and it’s hard to not want to be a part of what God is doing.

“Some of the best relationships I have are with students who a year ago we didn’t know and past students who are now on staff. They become family. You don’t have to be blood to be family.”

In her spare time, Meyer enjoys beekeeping, which she’s been doing for three years. She keeps her hives at a friend’s house.

“I’ve always been fascinated with honey bees, and once you start doing it, it becomes addictive,” said Meyer, who this year will be the historian for the Iowa Honey Producers Association.

Stuart York

Team player. Those are the words that describe our July Employee Spotlight, Stuart York. Stuart is the Operations Manager in the Tulsa branch. He has been a part of the O’Connor family for over 41 I/2 years.

On his birthday in 1977, Stuart started in the warehouse after being recruited from another distributor. It wasn’t long before Stuart added to his job duties. Over the years, he has done purchasing, calculated loads and layouts, IT backup, janitor, and the after hours call operator.

Stuart has always taken pride in his work, a good lesson learned from O’Connor’s former President, Bob Piller. “When Bob would come to the branch, he was very particular about the way things looked. When he would see me, he would run his finger along the top of a framed picture to see if there was dust on it. Then he would look at me and wink.”

Stuart grew up on the North side of Tulsa and started working at a young age. When he was a junior in high school, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life, so a decision was made that HVAC was the way to go. Before HVAC school in the mornings, Stuart would cram for tests and do his homework on the back of the school bus. The evenings were spent working as a janitor in a high-rise building in downtown Tulsa.

Darrell Robison, Director of Sales and Operations Southern Region, knows just how valuable Stuart is to O’Connor. “Stuart has always been an integral part of the branch. His organization, attention to detail, and loyalty to both our customers and our company are his greatest attributes. He has become my most valuable right-hand man on branch matters and our relationship has become a friendship. We and our customers are lucky to have him as part of our team.

Stuart has seen many significant changes over the course of his career, none bigger than O’Connor switching to Trane. “Before we took on the Trane line, all our parts and accessories came from one place. The game changed, and we had to bring in different vendor reps, and I was heavily involved in that transition.”

Stuart has been in the innovator of many programs at O’Connor. The parts preseason program he created in Tulsa was a such a success in Tulsa that he was invited to the corporate offices for a week to help put together the program for all the branches. Stuart has also been heavily involved with Tulsa’s open house and has organized bass fishing and golf tournaments that increased sales and created a fun experience for dealers.

“Stuart and I have worked together for seven years. He has always shown dedication, loyalty and takes his job seriously and with pride. He has worked hard and strives to help the Tulsa branch and its priorities. He works closely with the purchasing department taking the initiative to following up on the latest information. His work ethic speaks for itself.” Gina Brehm, Corporate Buyer/Purchasing Manager.

When Stuart is not working at O’Connor, he is enjoying time at his lake house with his wife of 30 years, Charlene. He has three adult children, Stuart Ray, Christina, and Marcus. Stuart is very proud of his five grandkids and plans on spending more time with them when he retires as he loves to be around his friends and family. Stuart also brews beer, makes wine, golfs, and loves to fish.

Fifteen years ago, when Stuart’s daughter was still in college and still trying to figure out a career path, she asked her him a question. “Dad, you must be ready for change and face new challenges, why have you been at O’Connor for so long?” Stuart replied, “I have had different responsibilities with constant change at O’Connor. Every day is a new adventure, and there are no two days the same.” Stuart’s dedication is undeniable. He has given four decades of service to the O’Connor Company and always willing to help others. We are thankful for Stuart’s hard work ethic and joyous spirit.”

Debi Turnbull

If you have worked at O’Connor for any length of time, you know the name, Debi Turnbull. She is a petite firecracker with the sharpest fashion sense, a bubbly personality, and loyalty to O’Connor that stands the test of time. She has been a household staple within our company for almost 40 years.

Debi started working at O’Connor on August 10, 1980. Her journey to employment at O’Connor is one of self-determination. Debi was a stay at home mom who was looking for something to occupy her time during the day once her two kids, Barry and Shelly, were in school full-time. “I just wanted to talk to someone over three feet tall,” Debi said as she talked about joining the workforce. “Until this point, I had never worked in my life, but I knew my work ethic was good.”
She decided to teach herself to type and ten-key by renting a typewriter and ten-key machine from a local shop in Wichita. She spent many hours practicing at her kitchen table. “Back in those days to find a job, you would contact an employment agency. I contacted Business Services, and they tested me on my typing and ten-key, and because I practiced and practiced, my test scores were off the charts.”

Debi had eight interviews and got an offer from every single one. “When Business Services called me and told me I got all eight jobs, and I could pick anyone I wanted, I decided to go with O’Connor Company because it was closest to my house.”
When she started at O’Connor, she was a secretary/receptionist. Debi has done everything from office manager to writing P21 procedures. There even was a time, Lynn Piller offered her a TM position, which she declined. Debi would also travel to the branches to count inventory. Now she is our Corporate Pricing Administrator.
“Debi Turnbull defines what it is to be a part of “Team O’Connor.” During her 39 years with the company, she has worked in 3 offices, held numerous roles, and has always been there with a smile on her face and hug to share no matter how daunting the tasks in front of her may have been.” Greg Borr.

Debi worked at our Wichita location until our corporate headquarters moved to the Kansas City area in the early 1990s. She has seen a lot of changes at O’Connor throughout the years, but one that sticks out to her is when we got our first fax machine. “I remember when we got our first fax machine. I was blown away by how information could be transmitted from one location to another like that.

Our very first fax was from Bob Piller’s son, Tom, telling us his son was born. Tom was in California!”
“I have known Debi ever since she started working at O’Connor. She is the hardest working, most conscientious person I have ever met. Debi’s dedication to O’Connor is unmatched. She has been a good friend of mine over the years. As she gets ready to retire, her cheerful disposition and wonderful smile will be missed. I (we) will miss her!” Wendell Miller.
Our culture is a big part of who we are as O’Connor Company, and many pieces of our values have been shaped by Debi’s positive attitude, kind heart, and passion for our company throughout the years.

Debi is a one of a kind employee. She is a team player, professional, completes any task given with great enthusiasm. She is a force at the office with her positive attitude and willingness to learn anything she can to improve O’Connor.” Jennie Bryan.
As Debi transitions from full time employment with O’Connor to a consulting role for us in 2020 and ultimately retirement late next year when asked what she is most excited to do, her reply is classic. “I can’t wait to go to the grocery store at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.”
A note from Lynn Piller
I first met Debi in August of 1980 when she was hired to be the receptionist for O’Connor Company in Wichita. We were in the open part of the office and I sat right behind her, so we were able to get to know one another early on.
I have always been struck by how much Debi cares about the company and the contributions everyone makes. She truly gives a damn. She began to work on the computer system early on when there was only one computer for the whole company. She has a passion for accuracy and is so fast it makes your head spin. After we acquired a computer system everyone in the company could use, she soon became the go-to person for the whole company for computer questions and procedures. She was the anchor holding things together administratively as the company grew.
Debi is a warm, caring person and folks recognized that and thrived on it. She always had a good word and a hug for customers. She cares about all those she works with, and that enriches work life for all who are around her.
t has been a real pleasure to work with her for almost 40 years, and we are all better for having known her.

Debi thank you for being a key part of Team O’Connor. We look forward to celebrating your 40th year with us, our 100th year in business and your full retirement later next year!