Matt Woessner, Mine Superintendent

Matt Woessner, Mine Superintendent

Matt Woessner, Mine Superintendent

Matt Woessner is one of those people you can’t help but like. You can feel his genuine smile and warmth from the moment you meet him. A self-described people person, Matt’s goal as a manager and Mine Superintendent is to ensure his crew is safe and enjoying coming to work every day.

“I really enjoy my employees and making it a good work environment for them by being optimistic and treating people the way I’d want to be treated,” Matt says. “And these guys… man, they show up every day, and they are good at what they do!”

As the Mine Superintendent for Holloway, Matt oversees the entire gypsum mining operation in Lost Hills, California. His crew of 15 ranges in specialty from mechanics to operators and scale house staff. It is Matt’s job to make sure equipment is well maintained and in working order, and that the mine meets its goal of producing 400 thousand tons of gypsum annually. To do that, he has to continually map out where the next drillings will be by working very closely with Holloway’s geologist, Zack Levinson.

Matt says the goals Holloway has set for the mine are a unique challenge because mining and crushing are very dependent on the seasons. It is not a system where you can produce the same, consistent amount month over month. But that is one of the things Matt likes most about the job – he has to continually strategize and problem solve. In the summer, it is relatively routine to process 50 to 55 thousand tons of gypsum a month because it is dry and the gypsum can run through the mills much easier. Whereas in the winter months, production slows dramatically and the focus is put on maintenance and repair of equipment.

A Turner Crane moves heavy equipmentAnd Matt is no stranger to heavy equipment and its operation having spent 34 years at Turner Crane in Bakersfield – a company started by his grandfather, Tommy Turner in 1949. The senior Mr. Turner started the company after returning home from World War II where he was in the Navy Seabees building airstrips in the South Pacific. An iron worker by trade, Mr. Turner started the company with an old A-frame crane that he bought and refurbished. Since then, the company has been owned and operated by three generations of Turners and specializes in large construction projects including train derailment, mine construction and expansion, and co-gen plants that turn natural gas into electricity.

“I pretty much did every job you could at Turner, from starting in high school where I literally pulled weeds and washed cars,” Matt laughs.

As he grew in the company, Matt became a fabricator and a welder, and then got his Class A license to drive 18 wheelers to deliver parts for the cranes. Next step was to become a crane rigger where he would drive the crane to the job site and rig the crane for operations. Eventually Matt became a crane operator and then transitioned to sales and helping run the company.

“My mom is 75 and still works there as a secretary!” Matt smiles. And fun fact: Matt’s mom actually introduced him to his wife – something she routinely brings up at family gatherings.

While the crane operation is a family business, Matt was ready to strike out on his own and try something new. He was drawn to mining because for almost 30 years of his time at Turner, he worked on cranes at the Borax mine, US Borax. He thought the process was fascinating.

“I had always been intrigued by mining and I had heard a lot about Holloway and what a great company they were to work for,” Matt says, “And I thought, in life, I always need to try something new.”

In the trueness that is this small world, Daniel Terry, Holloway’s VP and Director of Ag Products, is married to Matt’s niece.

“I called up Daniel out of the blue and told him I was looking for a career change and asked if he had any openings,” Matt explains. “It was my niece who reminded Daniel that the old Mine Superintendent was leaving and Daniel thought I’d be a good fit to come run the mine with my experience in heavy equipment and time running cranes on the Borax mine.”

Matt says the challenges of his new role are exciting and promotes constant growth. He is grateful to have a team around him who has been working with gypsum for years.

“I have learned so much about the material, what its used for, the mapping out of excavation, and the quality and grades of the material,” Matt says.

He credits one person in particular for teaching him how to read the material to determine gypsum type, and that person is Michael Parker. Michael has been with Holloway at the mine for 25 years.

“He has taught me a lot about where to dig, how to tell, or read the product, and how to mix it,” Matt says. “It is a challenge to get those mixes just right so the customer gets what they need, and Michael has incredible knowledge that has really helped me learn quickly.”

Matt sees a lot of parallels between the mining industry and the crane industry. Most specifically managing people who have specialized skills to run these big operations, and the intensity of the work.

“The crane business was intense work,” Matt remembers. “Putting up a 150-thousand-pound vessel and the scope of work that takes is a lot. But the mine has its own pressures. Meeting production goals and deadlines can be just as intense. Meeting deadlines especially, I figured out, was very key!”

Regardless of industries and pressures, Matt’s main satisfaction is managing people and giving them a great environment to come to work at every day.

“I really like managing people – from the cranes to this. Honestly, I love it – it gives me the biggest satisfaction,” Matt smiles. “I want people to come to work and be happy to be there and know that management is there for their safety and growth.”

As for what the future holds, Matt is excited about new innovations in mining. For example, using excavators and haul trucks vs. scaping, or better ways to crush the gypsum so we get a purer product. Also, the mapping and geological technology gets better every year allowing him to more accurately map to mine the material.

“I love the way Holloway is growing and I’m excited to see what the next 30 years holds,” Matt says. “There are lots of good people in good spots who care about the company and want to see it grow. Even though Holloway is a big company, it still feels like a family and that’s important to me.”

And speaking of family, if you are not in Matt’s circle of family and friends, you are going to want to be. He has three grown children and two grandsons, and in his off time, you can find Matt and his family on a two-week camping adventure complete with lots of fishing in Balch Park or Mammoth. Or you can cruise with him in his 1967 Camaro SS resto mod with original rally wheels. And don’t forget to meet him at one of the many NASCAR tracks where he enjoys the race with his wife of 29 years before firing up a massive wood fired barbeque to cook for 55 people! We’ll bring the potato salad and extra napkins!

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