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Everyday Hero: Tommy Larue

Fri, Mar 22, 2024

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies.

Introducing Tommy Larue, Facility and Equipment Lead at LTI, Inc./Milky Way in Sunnyside, Washington.
Company: LTI, Inc./Milky Way, Sunnyside

Title: Facility and Equipment Lead

On the Job Since: 2017

Superpower: Jack of all trades

Hometown: Yakima, WA

Favorite TV Series: Game of Thrones

Bucket List Destination: Australia and New Zealand

For Fun: Riding motorcycles, boating and fishing

How and when did you start working for Lynden?
I was a union carpenter and was interested in a career change. My stepbrother, John Hillman, encouraged me to get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Then an opportunity came up to work for Lynden at Sunnyside. After driving I became the Facility and Equipment Lead.

We provide an inventory of trailers; coordination of which trailers are going out on which projects. We also are responsible for making sure the trailers coming in are mechanically ready for the next load and are clean. I have four employees working with me and we have about 100 drivers in the Sunnyside location. We also coordinate the salt delivery operation from Sunnyside. So far, we have had only one major winter event, so we’ve dispatched three dump trucks of salt. It’s different each year depending on weather. We also coordinate with the Idaho, Oregon and Montana Service Centers to coordinate equipment.  

What is a typical day like for you?
I live in Selah, so it’s a 45-minute commute to get to work. I get in about 6:30 a.m. and usually leave around the same time at night Tuesday through Saturday. We work staggered shifts, some work 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. so we have complete coverage in the yard.

In an average day, I answer a lot of emails, work with Darigold, coordinate loads and wash facility activity, and oversee mechanical repairs if something needs to go into the shop. We have so much equipment coming in and out every day. We keep a trailer tracking spreadsheet that is updated every hour. It’s a live sheet that dispatchers use to coordinate our equipment moves. If we are working on salt deliveries, my coworkers Don, Jerry and Jordan all coordinate with the Department of Transportation, the salt sheds and the Seattle team.  

What has been most challenging in your career?
Every day is different. Some days things can run smoothly, other days things are crazy. I like to keep morale up with my guys. They don't get enough recognition for what they do. They move trailers and equipment around to the shop to make sure we have clean trailers on the road to keep freight moving. They put in a lot of steps every day and more responsibilities can pile on if it's busy. They have the tough job of prioritizing equipment as it comes in to get trailers back on the road again to meet the next deadline.

Most recently, we had a major freezing event in Eastern Washington that created a real mess. We’d send milk across the mountain to Seattle and by the time the trailer got back over, everything was frozen, including pumps and lines. Trailers were unusable due to the frozen conditions. I coordinated the shop and the CIP (clean-in-place) bay to get all the trailers inside to thaw and we started taking valves apart. We only had room for 2 bays at a time. We know it’s our job to keep the milk flowing, and we need to have trailers available for that. We needed to get that equipment usable and available so drivers can hook and go.

It took about a week to get everything back in service. I take my hat off to the shop guys. You’re only as good as the guys around you, and it was a group effort to keep our equipment rolling during that cold snap. Everyone stepped up and worked together.

What are you most proud of in your career?
My son TJ and my daughter Chelsea both drive for LTI, Inc./Milky Way in Ellensburg. They do farm pickup and haul milk across the Cascade Mountains.  

I try to be a good manager by staying calm at work no matter what is happening. Losing your cool stresses your coworkers. I have an open-door policy, and I hope people know they can come to me and talk about anything.  

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I grew up in Yakima, WA. I played football, basketball and baseball in school. I lived in Las Vegas with my dad for 12 years. I moved to Utah and joined the Carpenter’s Union and did carpentry work for many years there. I also was a mechanic working on motorhomes and other big chassis. I like to say I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I’m not the master of anything. I have one younger brother and a stepbrother. My family is still in Selah.

What was your first job?
I worked at a place in Las Vegas called Earl Scheib where you could get a $99 paint job on your car. My job was sanding the cars. Earl was an Elvis impersonator on the side.  

What would surprise most people about you?
At one time, I ran a concrete crew in the Portland area with 15 people under me. We worked on high-rise buildings, elevator shafts and construction projects in the metro area.

How do you spend your time outside of work? 
I love to ride my Harley. I got hooked on riding and my two kids have Harleys too. We took a trip to the Redwoods recently. I enjoy family time riding bikes, boating, waterskiing, tubing and fishing. We go to O’Sullivan and the Potholes in Central Washington.

What do you like best about your job?
The demeanor of the leaders and managers set the tone for the whole company. They are easy people to work for. They respect employees and have the same work ethic as we all do. You can find them chaining up trucks and jumping in to help when needed. I respect that, and it makes me want to work harder for them.

Topics from this blog: Lynden LTI Inc. Milky Way trucking Lynden Employees Everyday Heroes Featured

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