Geoff Anderson is coming to the Moose Jaw Co-op following a strike and with big shoes to fill.
There is still nowhere he would rather be.
Anderson is new the general manager of the Moose Jaw Co-op Association Ltd., having taken over for Gerry Onyskevitch following his retirement after 27 years in the role in Moose Jaw.
Anderson has spent the past five years in Regina working for Federated Co-op Ltd as a retail advisor.
"It's really kind of a transitional role," Anderson said. "You go in for five years and really work with other general managers and their board of directors on governance and operations. That really prepares you for a role like Moose Jaw where I can come in and apply some of the skills that I learned from other GMs and other boards.
"Back in 2014, a lot of people asked me where would I like to end up and I always said Moose Jaw. The stars aligned for me and I'm pretty excited to be here."
One of the reasons that Anderson sees Moose Jaw as such a quality posting is down to the shape that Onyskevitch left the business in upon his retirement.
"Back in the 1980s we went through a recession; interest rates were through the roof. Federated Co-op was having some really hard times, as were a lot of our retails. Some of those co-operatives are no longer in existence because of those hard times," Anderson said. "When Gerry was hired he came into a retail where he had to really turn things around. That's where he gained a lot of respect across the entire Co-op retailing system because of his attributes. He had a humbleness about him and a quietness about him, but he was a very effective leader here for the organization.
"So, yeah, big shoes to fill here coming into Moose Jaw."
Anderson got his start in the Co-op system as a meat manager in 2002 and has worked his way up through the system and across the province. He started in Carrot River before moving to Humboldt where he also served as the meat manager. He worked to take some courses to become a food store manager and then took retail manager group training to become a general manager.
He was then the general manager in Davidson for three years before assuming the same role in Shaunavon for three years.
"My wife has been pretty patient with me moving her around all of these years, but we're happy to be settled in Moose Jaw," Anderson said. "We're looking forward to buying a house here and putting down roots and becoming part of the community."
The Co-op reached a new collective agreement with its union, UFCW Local 1400, after a 36-day strike. One of Anderson's first priorities is bringing everyone back together again.
"Whenever employees or managers have to go through something like that it certainly does create a bit of a divide between those two groups," Anderson said. "I think my job as general manager is to do everything possible to close that divide, so that we're working together with team members and team leaders and we're all trying to reach that common goal, which is putting people first."
Putting people first — whether that's an interaction with a Co-op member or interactions with the management team or between team members — is at the core of how Anderson wants to run the local Co-op.
"My biggest priority, and I've been very transparent with everyone I've talked to, is over the next year improving employee engagement with the staff and with the management team and making sure we're putting people first in everything we do," he said.