The University of Georgia's new executive director of food services has Columbia County ties.
Michael Floyd, a 22-year veteran of the university's food services, who took over the additional duties in May, is a 1973 graduate of Harlem High School.
Floyd didn't move to Harlem until his senior year in high school, but the community had a profound effect on his success.
After he graduated from Valdosta State University, where he served as student manager of food services for three years, Floyd said, his Harlem neighbor, Paul Early, encouraged him to continue his career path.
He said Early, who had worked in the Army food services department, suggested that Floyd join the contract division of Morris cafeterias.
"His suggestion was the jump-start that got me out there," said Floyd.
Two years later, at age 23, he became the director of food services at Valdosta State.
He stayed there for seven years before becoming the head of Georgia's food services department in 1986. He became director of food services in 2006.
In his new position, Floyd said, he does more than just oversee campus food services. He also runs other auxiliary services, such as parking, the bookstore, the transit system and a debit card program for students.
"All of our services should be services that encourage students to come here," Floyd said.
He said Georgia's food services have won 67 national awards since he arrived.
The honors include a 1995 Ivy Award. The recipients of this accolade are nominated by their peers in the industry, and readers of Restaurants & Institutions , the leading publication in the food services business, vote on the winners.
But Floyd said his most noteworthy achievement is the number of students on the meal plan.
When he came to Georgia, he said, about 4,500 students were on the meal plan. Last fall, however, 8,100 students, including 2,000 off-campus residents, were on the meal plan.
"We've expanded our selections and choices here over the years," Floyd said.
Some of the new offerings at the university dining halls include coffee shops, a Mongolian grill and smoothie bars.
Floyd said the friendliness he found in Harlem has inspired him to try to give new students the same welcome in Athens.
"There were just so many people in Harlem who made me feel connected," he said.
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