A Fond Farewell to Al Friedges: A Legacy of Leadership and Laughter

December 29, 2023

After nearly 11 years of dedicated service, Al Friedges, the Biomass Processing Manager and the driving force behind the success of the SMSC Organics Recycling Facility (ORF), is bidding farewell to his celebrated career. Friedges’ last day, January 5, 2024, marks the end of an era filled with accomplishments, laughter, and a positive impact on the workplace culture.

Friedges’ retirement is bittersweet for all of us at SMSC. As we bid him adieu, we reflect on the legacy he leaves behind—a thriving ORF business and the upcoming Dakota Prairie Composting facility. Friedges’ decision to retire wasn’t an easy one, but with the support of his wife Patty and his large family, he looks forward to spending more time with those he holds dear on his farm and at his cabin.

For those who’ve had the privilege of working alongside Friedges, his impact on professional growth is immeasurable. Dustin Montey shares, “I’ve worked side by side with Al for nearly 10 years. So, it’s hard to think of an aspect [of my career] that Al has not impacted.” From navigating policies to making sales, Friedges has been a guiding force.

Jon Zerwas, another team member, adds, “Al hired me and helped mold me into the person I am today.” Friedges’ influence extends beyond daily operations, shaping the careers of those fortunate enough to work under his leadership.

Jenny Appenzeller acknowledges Friedges’ role in her career, “Al always encourages joining professional organizations and attending conferences and meetings. He has also been extremely supportive in my decision to further my education.”

Friedges’ leadership is not only about professional growth but also about creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture. Montey fondly recalls the countless memorable experiences with Friedges, from hilarious travel stories to facing challenges together. “Al has always had an open door allowing anyone to come and be heard at any time.”

Zerwas adds, “Al is very good at handling tough situations and has a really good way at dealing with everyone he manages. Al is a people person with great managerial skills.”

Appenzeller highlights Al’s coaching approach, stating, “Al created a positive culture by coaching employees when things didn’t go right. You knew you made the mistake by Al’s approach of guidance.”

Friedges’ admirable qualities as a leader shine through in all his colleagues. Erin Skelly shares, “Al does not micromanage and gives his employees the opportunities to grow in their positions.” Appenzeller includes, “Al is an exceptional leader! He allows us to do our jobs knowing we have his full support when needed.”

Friedges also drove his team’s success through inspiration. Says Dave Pearson, “If I can take just one page out of Al’s playbook it would be how he delivers results. The 11 years of him being here are a living testimony of success: where the ORF was and where it’s going. He does that through trust and influence with his team. It’s very important to be honest, transparent, and listen to your team. With that recipe, you can have very impactful results.”

The impact of Friedges’ initiatives is evident. Zerwas notes, “We’ve grown over triple in equipment in the amount of time I’ve been here. Al has also worked very hard to help design our new site.” Skelly acknowledges Al’s role in the Dakota Prairie Composting Facility, saying, “Al has been instrumental in researching, designing, and permitting the new Dakota Prairie Composting Facility.”

Friedges’ departure leaves behind a treasure trove of lessons and wisdom. Skelly expresses gratitude, saying, “Al has taught me through example the value of networking and building relationships with customers. When I took SMSC’s leader foundations class this past spring, one of the things we went over was a worksheet of qualities/actions that make someone a memorable leader.

The leaders we remember:

  • Inspired us to reach higher,
  • Provided a safe space to grow,
  • Developed us as people and leaders,
  • Opened career doors,
  • Defended us when we needed it,
  • Rewarded and recognized us,
  • Led by example,
  • Forgave us when we made mistakes, and
  • Told us our work mattered.

As we went over the list, I could clearly think of many examples where Al has done all of these things for his employees. He has managed many people over his long career and is most definitely a leader to look up to.”

Pearson shares the most important lesson he gained working with Friedges, “Family comes first. Recently I had to take some time off to be with my family and it was very difficult to walk away for a bit. I told Al that I was having difficulty being away for a length of time. He got very stern and serious (a side I don’t see often) and he told me, ‘Family comes first. We have a team here that has your back; we got this. Some moments you can never have back, and this is one of them. We will be here when you get back, Dave.’ He was right.”

As we bid farewell to Al Friedges, we’ll miss more than just a colleague; we’ll miss a friend, a mentor, and a leader. Skelly sums it up, ” I will miss Al’s jokes and crazy stories, he has always been good at giving everyone a laugh! His guidance and friendly presence in the office will be missed, but I wish him all the best in retirement, it is well deserved!”

Join us in congratulating Al on his well-deserved retirement and may the next chapter of his life be filled with joy, relaxation, and more of the laughter and success he brought to the SMSC Organics Recycling Facility.