WORZALLA PRESSROOM MANAGER, CHET PLASKI ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT
After 45 years of distinguished service, Chet Plaski has announced his retirement from Worzalla.
“We owe Chet so much for the contributions he has made in the pressroom, on our board and especially with the relationships he’s developed with our customers over the years. He has had a major role in making Worzalla the company it is today”, stated Jim Fetherston, President & CEO.
Looking Back: Chet began his career with Stevens Point, WI based WORZALLA on December 4, 1967, back in the days of Linotype printing. His first position was “Lockup Boy,” taking the lead-type pages from the Composing Room and arranging them in print format for the press. He would then disassemble the type and return it to Linotype.
By 1971 Chet received his Journeyman Card in Letterpress and transferred into the Offset department spending six months on the night shift before moving back to days as a Feeder. With the opening of the company’s new pressroom in 1975 he was promoted to Pressman, running the Miehle M-25, the Multilith, and the Miller TP-38 presses. In 1981 WORZALLA purchased the Miller 54-4 four-color press and Chet went back on the night shift as a Working Foreman, running the 54-4. The company also entered the web market with a Hantscho four-color web press.
On December 31, 1986, the company became 100% employee-owned, sparking a period of tremendous growth. The pressroom welcomed a new Manroland 800 press. The legendary Frank Anderko (former VP-Manufacturing, who died in 1997) promoted Chet to Night Plant Superintendent. Chet began working directly with customers, handling press OK’s on the evening shifts. By 1990 the 806 and 802 presses, both also from Manroland, had come along and played a big part in growing the business. The web pressroom was expanded in 1992 to include a Timsons one-color web press, with a second Timsons to follow in 1998.
In 1993 WORZALLA decided to expand and bought the Bookbinders plant in Eatontown, New Jersey, and installed two Manroland presses — an 800 six-color and a 600 46C — in that facility. When that division closed in 1994, both presses were shipped west and installed at WORZALLA’s plant in Stevens Point.
When long-time Press Superintendent Bernie Peterson retired in 2003 Chet moved back to days and took over the department as the Press Room Manager.
“The change in technology over the years has been amazing – overwhelming,” stated Chet. “In particular, the advent of imagesetters was a huge technology leap. When we left film behind it made printing so much easier.”
In just the past year, Chet has overseen an expansion of the company’s web press room with the successful installation of two web presses, a Manroland Lithoman and Rotoman that are significantly increasing web capacity.
When Chet was just starting out working with customers, he got some good advice from sales representative Peter Kimball – “Always be honest, don’t BS the customer.” Chet says he never forgot that advice, and customers today still count on Chet’s disarming ability to shoot straight.
Over the years Chet has developed great relationships with customers big and small. “A lot of customers I still deal with today were with us when I became a supervisor in the 1980’s,” Chet commented. WORZALLA has enjoyed longstanding relationships with Capstone, Disney, Harpercollins, Harris, Houghton, Little Brown, and Disney, to name a few. In more recent years Chet has established close relationships with folks at Abrams, Hachette, Random House, and National Geographic. Working closely with these people for so many years, when someone couldn’t come in for a press OK, they were comfortable that Chet would know what they wanted and could do the OK inhouse. “I’m honored to have earned that trust from our customers,” he commented. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Chet has also had the pleasure of working with famous children’s book authors and illustrators on many award-winning books — Alan Say, Steven Kellogg, Bernard Waber, David Weisner, Marc Brown, Kevin Henkes, Jeff Kinney and just recently, Jessica Lange.
Chet commented that he has been fortunate to work with so many wonderful people over the years. He will always remember former sales reps Alan Laming and Peter and Anne Kimball. When asked about WORZALLA people he admired most, he immediately responded, “Frank Anderko – he was strict, fair, and showed compassion to his co-workers.”
Many Hats: There is no doubt Chet has been a valuable leader in our press operation. But he has done much more for every associate here, with his 27 years of service on the WORZALLA Board of Directors. When the employees purchased the company in 1986 a new Board was formed, consisting of three management and three non-management directors. Chet was a founding director, and served in that capacity through July of 2013. He also served as a Trustee of the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).
Chet’s volunteer service on the WORZALLA Board of Directors helped to guide and grow the company, and helped us all to weather the occasional downturns in business and changes in the industry.
Looking Ahead: And what lies ahead for Chet? Some personal time. Chet and his wife, Joyce, have two children – Wayne and Jennifer – and four grandchildren. “I still have my ‘part time’ job on the farm,” he stated. “I think I will probably look up Greg Mykisen (retired Production Control Manager) to try to hook a free stay at his cabin – maybe try the same thing with Bernie Peterson (retired Press Superintendent) too.”
When asked if he had any advice for us for the future, Chet stated, “Change is here. I want to encourage everyone to hang in there. I think it’s a good place to work. My hope is that this company survives and grows and what we are going through now is going to help build the business to become secure as a leader in the industry. I would really feel good knowing that in 10-20 years to come, this place is still going strong. I think we have a good management team in place that will make it happen.”
“Worzalla has always been quality-driven. The customer has always been Number One around here, and that is what has kept us around for such a long time. If we continue doing that – if every person here continues doing that – that is what’s going to keep us around a lot longer.”
Chet himself will still be around for a few months to assist in implementing a changeover in department management, and to keep several initiatives moving forward. So there will be time to stop in, thank him for his contribution, and wish him well in his retirement.