Not many people can claim they work in the Hollow Tree with elves.
But Guy Ball, a former Evans resident and now plant director for Kellogg's Keebler division in Macon, does just that.
Ball, 41, leads about 400 workers at the 340,000-square-foot bakery that's been in Macon since 1954.
The Macon plant ships out nearly 130 million pounds of Keebler brand crackers and cookies a year, Ball said. The company's advertising features Keebler elves who live at Hollow Tree, making cookies and crackers.
Ball's career began in 1988 in Augusta with the Murray Biscuit Co., which was purchased by Keebler in 1998. Kellogg USA bought the Keebler Co. two years ago.
Guy Ball, plant director of the Kellogg's Snack Division in Macon, stands in front of the Keebler Grahams Cinnamon Crisp product line.
Photo by Matt Roth/The Macon Telegraph
A 1981 graduate of Evans High School, Ball is the son of Jim and Sandie Ball and still has family members living in the Evans area.
Ball got his first job in the business just weeks after graduating from Georgia Southern University with a degree in business administration.
He was the company's first line supervisor with a college degree, he said.
"It worked out well for me," he said. "I tried to learn as much as I could. I was a relief supervisor so I worked every shift. I learned a lot in a very short period of time."
Ball moved up the corporate ladder from line manager to shift manager to operations manager in Augusta before becoming plant manager in Charlotte, N.C., in 1994. Three years later, he transferred to the Columbus plant, then became Macon's plant manager in 1999.
Even though the bakery company has gone through several ownership changes, his "career path has been fairly secure," he said.
When Ball was a youngster, he didn't really think he would be working in a bakery. Early on, he considered following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps and joining the military.
"But I decided that the military was not for me," he said.
Born in San Francisco, he moved around the world with his family because his father was in the Air Force. He went to schools in a number of foreign countries and in Virginia and Hawaii before moving to the Augusta area for his last two years of high school.
"I consider Augusta my home," he said.
His first job was as a camp counselor at Fort Gordon when he was 15 years old. He was paid about $3 a hour, he said.
After playing football in high school, he won a position in the backfield on Georgia Southern's football team, he said, and was part of the national championship teams in 1985 and 1986 for Division I-AA.
Before settling on a career path, he took some tests to help determine what he might be suited for. Although the results pointed toward some kind of social work because of his people skills, he decided he could use those same talents in a management position.
"I like resolving issues, coming up with plans, organizing, planning, just working with the team," he said. "And I'm proud of the products we produce, the company image we have."
On the flip side, he doesn't like relocating or traveling for business purposes, which is the main reason he didn't want to join the military. He said he wants to continue his career with the company, but he would like to stay in one place for awhile.
"I don't like being away from my family," he said. "When I travel, I miss something."
Coaching his son
Ball and his wife, Tina, have been married 13 years. They have two young children, Kyle and Nicole, who are involved in a number of activities, he said. His daughter is active in ballet and gymnastics.
"Anytime she has a recital, I will make it a point to be there unless I'm out of town," he said.
Kyle plays soccer and takes classes in tae kwon do.
"I support his soccer team by being a coach," Ball said. Gene Kraay, head coach at the Middle Georgia Soccer Association, has known Ball since last year when he started coaching Ball's son. This year when he needed coaching help, Kraay said Ball "was the first guy I thought of."
Kraay said he liked Ball's demeanor on the sidelines.
"I think he's a terrific guy, and he does a terrific job helping relieve anxiety," he said. "He's very funny. But in the heat of combat with these kids, he's very focused and he's certainly committed to these kids. Win, lose or draw, he focuses on what these kids did in a positive way."
Ball doesn't let a losing score get him down, and he doesn't come down hard on the players, Kraay said.
"He recognizes that we will win some and lose some," he said. "He never has his head down, always up."
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