In an era where job hopping for career advancement is a simple fact of life, Isis Mill employee Jeff Geaney is certainly “old school”.
After more than 50 years working for Isis Central Sugar Mill Jeff is finally calling “time” on a career that has seen him spread his talent across almost every aspect of the mill’s operation.
While Jeff is enough of a realist to acknowledge “that the place is not going to fall down without me” he hopes he has been able to make a worthwhile contribution to an industry and a factory that has been central to the growth of the Isis district for decades.
Mill management, fellow workers and industry participants from growers to contractors have been lavish in their praise of Jeff, seen by many as a bloke with a ready wit and larrikin sarcasm.
Paul Nicol, the mill’s long-serving Cane Supply, Logistics, Rail and Infrastructure Manager said it seemed inevitable that Jeff would find employment with Isis Central Sugar Mill.
“He had no sooner been born when he was introduced to mill life,” he said.
Jeff born to be a mill employee
“His Mum, who had filled a role in the kitchen during the war effort – gave birth to Jeff and returned almost immediately to her role as cook in the kitchen at the mill barracks.
“The barracks, which were located on site, were overflowing with workers who relied on people like Mrs Geaney to provide their daily meals,” Paul said.
“His mum would deposit Jeff into a wooden crate strategically placed so she could complete her tasks as head cook and watch over him. Jeff's Dad was also on the payroll assisting around the kitchen and the barracks and later went on to have a long career at Isis Mill.”
Paul said Jeff commenced his employment in the Mill Store in May, 1971 as Clerk.
“Jeff quickly rose through the ranks and was soon working as a Clerk in the Main Office – looking after almost everything from accounts to cane pays and supporting workers in the Weigh bridge, Main Office and Store.
“His adaptability eventually saw him asked to join the Field team and he very quickly became the go-to person in the Cane Inspection Team.”
“Jeff changed with the times and easily came to terms with a move from using compass and chains to estimate crops to advanced computer technology.”
According to Jeff his early experiences at the mill ensured that he was prepared to tackle any opportunity that came his way.
“As the new employee I recall the then manager Kevin Livingston had a fall and broke his collar bone. I was quickly appointed as the designated driver for Mr Livingston and every days he would jingle the keys and I’d take him to his appointments.”
Sugar industry is resilient
Jeff has seen the ups and downs of the sugar industry over more than five decades and has always admired the fact the industry and its participants had the resolve to invariably bounce back.
“There’s been good years and not-so-good years. Years where we crushed very little and those years where more than a million tonnes went through the rollers.
“The workmates, the interaction with growers have all created lasting memories for me,” Jeff said.
In summing up Jeff’s service as an employee Paul said Jeff had been involved in every decision the mill had made during his career.
“Guiding the team, offering his counsel and vast knowledge, training the new members, assisting everyone, picking us up when we are down, standing up for Isis Mill when we were in a scrap – his humour and sarcasm often defusing the volatile situations in which the Field department sometimes found itself.”
The mill’s Board of Directors presented Jeff with mementos of his extended service including the traditional gold watch.
After all, retirement is about having time on your hands.