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Grant County native W. Rodney McMullen, a long-time employee at Kroger, becomes CEO of the Cincinnati-based company on Jan. 1.
One could say that he has been preparing for this opportunity his entire career, for he started working at the grocery giant in 1978 as a part-time stock clerk while attending the University of Kentucky.
McMullen is currently the company’s president and chief operating officer.
After growing up on a farm in Williamstown, McMullen earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from UK.
While attending college and beginning in 1978, he gradually learned a little of everything about Kroger, from putting price labels on products and bagging groceries to running a register and receiving product.
“I learned a lot. Of course I learned a little of everything about our business, which was invaluable,” he said. “But more importantly, I learned about hard work and that being a good co-worker means helping each other accomplish what they need to accomplish. It was an experience I wouldn’t give up for anything.”
After graduating in 1982, he worked in a Kroger retail division office in Charlotte, N.C.
In 1986, Rodney was appointed financial analyst at Kroger’s corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. He played a pivotal role in implementing Kroger’s leveraged restructuring in 1988, which kept the company public and rewarded shareholders.
McMullen was elected Kroger’s chief financial officer in 1995.
His leadership quickly expanded beyond traditional finance roles to include strategy and operations. He led the integration of Kroger’s $13 billion merger with Fred Meyer Inc. in 1999 and was subsequently elected executive vice president of strategy, planning and Finance in 2000.
Three years later, McMullen was elected vice chairman of the Kroger Board of Directors in 2003 and elected to his current position as president and COO in 2009.
He is responsible for all of Kroger’s supermarket divisions, advertising, customer insight and strategy, customer relationship marketing, manufacturing, merchandising and procurement, pharmacy, retail operations, supply chain and The Little Clinic.
McMullen is a member of the board of directors of Cincinnati Financial Corp., dunnhumby Ltd., and dunnhumbyUSA.
He also serves on the board of trustees of Xavier University, and on the Business Partnership Foundation and UK Gatton College of Business & Economics. He has chaired Cincinnati’s Catholic Inner-city Schools Education fund campaign and is active in several retail industry organizations, including as chairman of the GS1 US Board of Governors and chairman of 1WorldSync.
In his spare time, he enjoys collecting books and owns a first edition copy of “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, which is one of his favorite books for many reasons, including its message about how to treat people and working together.
“I believe you are a reflection of all the people you have come into contact with during your life,” McMullen said. “Of course my parents were a huge influence, and so was the entire UK community — professors, students, and my wife (Kathryn King McMullen) who I met there. They are a lot of who I am today.”
(This article is provided by the University of Kentucky Alumni Association)