“If I have a thought, you usually know it,” says Pat Solheid, referring to her honest, matter-of-fact way of managing the human resources and administrative functions at Jennie-O-Turkey Store in Willmar, Minnesota.
Nevertheless, Pat is quick to admit she was thrown off guard when co-workers and community members came together in December to recognize her with two notable awards: the Pride of the Jersey distinction from Hormel Foods and the inaugural woman of the year title from WeLead (Women Empowering Leadership Education and Development).
“I’m very vocal, but I was speechless. For a long time,” she says. “It was quite the overwhelming day for me.”
Steve Williams, who serves as director of employee relations at Jennie-O Turkey Store, played a role in ensuring that Pat was doubly lauded at WeLead’s annual luncheon. According to Steve, it was “the perfect time” to recognize her leadership and inspiration at work and in the community.
“She challenges others to become involved in the communities where we live and work,” he says. “That helps to create solutions and build bridges.”
No stranger to volunteer endeavors, Pat is a firm believer that if you want to make things better, you have to do more than talk the talk. When she was living in Wisconsin, for example, she wasn’t in agreement with the local school board. So, she set her sights on joining the group to make a difference.
“Don’t complain,” she says. “Get involved.”
Pat’s award from WeLead is a testament to her contributions to the women’s networking and leadership organization. As a professional woman and mother of two adult daughters, WeLead’s mission is near and dear to Pat’s heart.
Her passion, commitment to integrity and community-mindedness are simply extraordinary.Sara Carlson, executive director of the Willmar Area Community Foundation
“I care deeply about my job, the community, my team members and our workers. If you care, you have to make things better.”
In a news release issued by WeLead, Pat was described as someone who “uses her positional capacity to leverage hundreds of good things to happen locally from scholarships to deserving students, internships to emerging professionals, funds to fuel and inspire programs that help those less fortunate and major investments into projects that change the face of a community or make the stuff of dreams come true.”
Sara Carlson, executive director of the Willmar Area Community Foundation, helped pen the news release about Pat, someone she refers to as “an amazing person both professionally and personally.”
“She has a big heart for people,” Sara says. “She’s also very considerate, rarely missing an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishment or comfort you in a challenging time. Her passion, commitment to integrity and community-mindedness are simply extraordinary.”
Journey to Jennie-O Turkey Store
Pat is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she received an honors degree in business administration and journalism. Her first job in human resources – known as “personnel” when she began her career – was with a local manufacturing company. She got the job because she played in a local softball league, and her coach was the personnel manager for the company. Upon graduation from college, Pat started working for Montgomery Ward. She was soon ready for another challenge, however, and was hired as the human resources manager for the Jennie-O Turkey Store plant in Faribault, Minnesota.
“When I was hired in 1986, I thought I would stay for a couple of years and move on,” she says.
That has hardly been the case.
Pat has been a member of the Jennie-O Turkey Store team for more than three decades, holding positions of increasing responsibility. Like so many Hormel Foods workers, she could never think of a reason to leave.
“It’s a fabulous place to work. My job is fascinating,” Pat says, adding an attribute precious few companies can lay claim to.
“We feed the world,” she says.
Outside of Work
Pat and her husband, Jim, have been married 29 years. Their daughters, Lacey and Rachel, are out on their own, and in fact, Rachel is an industrial engineer for the Fremont (Neb.) Plant of Hormel Foods.
“Our goal was always to raise good kids, and we raised two strong, independent, talented women,” she says. “They’re my proudest accomplishment.”
As empty-nesters, Pat and Jim have more free time than they used to, which comes in handy for traveling. The Solheids love to take car trips with friends as much as they enjoy taking off to exotic locales. They are concertgoers as well. The Eagles, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Journey, just to name a few, “make us feel like kids again,” she says.
Pat believes strongly in “bringing your best self to whatever you’re doing,” whether it’s at work, having fun or serving in the community. As someone accustomed to giving back in spades, she argues that she receives just as much – if not more – in return.
“I am so lucky to be able to work for this company, have the family that I have, be part of this community. I just feel so blessed every day.”