Admirers salute man who wore many hats at EFP plant
On Billy Brinkley’s last day as plant manager of the EFP Corp. on Brooks Street, a trucker dropped by to wish him well.
“I’ve been picking up stuff here since 1982,” said Ron Dunivant of Madison, who
drives for Wilson Trucking. “He’s the nicest shipping and receiving person you’ll ever see, one of the best I’ve dealt with anywhere.”
Dunivant’s kind words Friday hinted to the many hats Brinkley wore during more than 47 years at the company, which manufactures expandable foam packaging for firms such as General Electric, General Motors, Toshiba and Kohler.
“I’ve done it all,” said Brinkley, who’ll celebrate his 67th birthday Sunday with his wife, Dorothy, at their Priceville Mountain home. “When things got slow, I was janitor for a while, mowing the yard. As business picked up, I’d go back to my job.”
The question is which job? He had so many duties during his lengthy career that no one could be more familiar with the 180,000-square-foot facility, one of the largest of its kind in North America.
His climb to the top position in the plant matched its name changes. Launched as Decatur Plastics in 1954, it later operated as SCI Plastics, then Mahoney Plastics. In 1980, it became EFP Corp., and in 1985, J.B. Poindexter & Co. Inc., bought the company.
Brinkley, a graduate of old Austinville High School, arrived April 25, 1960, for a maintenance job. Soon, he was
driving a vehicle similar to a moving van, delivering product to customers all over the Southeast.
After five years on the road, he returned to the plant and began moving material from the production lines to the warehouse. Another five years passed before he stepped into shipping and receiving.
“Three or four years later, I got my first managerial job as shipping and materials manager,” said Brinkley, who was more concerned with getting the job done than keeping up with promotion dates.
The next stop was the plant manager’s office.
“When I came here at 20, I never believed I’d be here this long,” he said.
“It makes no difference where you work, you’re going to have problems. So, I just kept going. I’m glad I did because I’ve been able to work through a lot of things to move up, and I’ve enjoyed working with the people here, who have done a good job for the company. And I’m able to retire now.”
Since he rarely thought about retirement, he doesn’t know what he’ll do with his time, except to spend more of it with his family, which includes two children and four grandchildren.
“You don’t plan on things, you just do them, whatever comes up,” he said. “Fish? I don’t have the patience to fish. Working doesn’t take much patience. You just get out and do it.”
The plant runs three shifts five days a week and employs 86 hourly workers and 23 people in administration and management.
Beverly Thompson, human resources manager, said the majority of employees have been at the plant more than 15 years and were familiar
with Brinkley’s management style.
She said that while planning his retirement luncheon, employees gave her comments like “He could be a hard taskmaster, but he was always fair” and “If Billy told you something, take it to the bank. He never plays games.”
Thompson said one woman told her, “You might not always like what Billy has to say. But it won’t change, and you can count on it.”
Owner Poindexter knew how much he could count on Brinkley, as did Bill Flint, the company president.
Poindexter traveled to Decatur from his Houston home and Flint came down from headquarters in Elkhart, Ind., to show their gratitude.
“That was a surprise,” said Brinkley, a man who doesn’t like surprises. “I had no idea they were coming. But I appreciated that.”
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