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Rodney Vessell: Every Day Is A New Battle

Rodney Vessell stumbled upon printing, braved several storms along the way and continues to carry the torch of a great mentor.

November 2008 By Missy Smith
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FOR RODNEY Vessell, Missouri State Printer, working in the printing industry was never part of his plan. A native of Farmington, Mo., a town of about 10,000 people, Vessell graduated from Farmington High School in 1980 with one thing on his mind: basketball. In fact, he attended the University of Missouri on a full basketball scholarship, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.

Upon graduation in 1984, he started sending out résumés. One of them found its way into the hands of Gary Judd, the Missouri State Printer. Judd called him for an interview.

“After college, I had no idea what printing was or how any of the facets of it worked,” Vessell recalls. Nevertheless, he took the job Judd offered and began working as a purchasing agent for the State Printing Center, buying and bidding on equipment, and purchasing raw materials. Though he was overwhelmed at first, Vessell found guidance in Judd.

After 10 years with the Jefferson City, Mo., in-plant, he was promoted to assistant manager, working alongside his friend and mentor. Then, in 2003, Gary Judd passed away suddenly. Vessell, who attributes his success as an in-plant manager to his friendship and working relationship with Judd, was appointed state printer not long afterwards.

“I can’t say enough about him,” he reflects. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.” And, though he did not plan on a career in printing, he intends to work for the State Printing Center until he retires.

Budget Woes

When Vessell started as state printer, the in-plant was still feeling the economic effects of 9/11, as many states, including Missouri, went through a budget crisis. For many months after the terrorist attacks, state agencies did not have the money to do as much printing as they had in the past. Staff cutbacks ensued. It took years for the State Printing Center to recover.

Today, business is good. Sales and impressions are back up to the numbers the in-plant enjoyed before September 11. Vessell says he is proud of the in-plant’s resiliency.

When he first started at the in-plant, Vessel was impressed by the tight-knit group of employees he joined.

“It was a real family-oriented atmosphere, which really makes such a difference,” he says. Vessell took that cue from Judd and tries to maintain the same level of camaraderie. It shows in his employees.

“The success we’ve had here has definitely been from the hard work our employees have done,” he says. “They’ve really stepped up to the plate and done a good job for us.” Though he says they do not need much motivating, he does share some pointers with them.

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