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Co-op hires new general manager

Lee Bradford of California will take the role March 21

BRATTLEBORO—Lee Bradford has been hired as the Brattleboro Food Co-op’s new general manager.

Bradford will replace Sabine Rhyne, Co-op’s general manager from 2015 to 2021, who left at the end of the year. Store Manager Whitney Field has served as interim manager.

The Co-op board of directors praised Field for her “steady leadership during this transition.”

After Bradford’s two-day visit and interview here in February, Field said that the prospective leader “came across to me as someone who is humble and listens to and hears people’s concerns and really wants to help make a difference.”

Bradford, who lives in Fresno, Calif., brings more than 26 years of business management expertise in a variety of industries.

From June 2021 until the present, he has worked as general manager for FreshKO Produce Services, Inc., a $100 million produce sales and distribution company with more than 150 employees.

“At FreshKo he helped their many retail clients successfully navigate the various supply chain shortages throughout the pandemic,” reads a statement on the Co-op’s website.

Bradford previously worked with C&S Wholesale Grocers for seven years, serving first as senior transportation director and vice president of commercial planning in Keene, N.H., and then as vice president of customer experience on the West Coast.

Founded in 1918, C&S is one of the largest wholesale grocers in the U.S., supplying more than 7,500 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases, and institutions with more than 100,000 different products.

Bradford received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Otterbein University in Ohio and his master’s degree in the same field from Arizona State University.

Prior to working in the food wholesaling industry, Bradford managed customer services and sales in a variety of organizations, including Eastern Mountain Sports, a greeting card company, and AT&T.

At AT&T, Lee managed a 220-person team composed of a highly diverse workforce in a strong union. Numerous colleagues highlighted his extraordinary people skills at all levels of the organization and with customers alike, say board members.

In a news release, Co-op officials say Bradford “won over both the board and the management team with his attentiveness, his articulate and heartfelt responses to a variety of hard and challenging interview questions, and his personable, easy manner.”

“In the meet and greets with staff, Lee had engaging conversations and encouraged open and honest communication,” they said.

Co-op representatives say Bradford has “a track record of immersing himself, learning quickly, and being successful.”

While Bradford is not available for interviews yet, he said in the news release, “I would like to extend my sincerest thanks for the opportunity to be part of the Brattleboro [Food] Co-op. I am incredibly excited to join this amazing team and to serve a community so closely aligned with my personal values and see a very bright future for us.”

“My family and I are looking forward to the move and hope to see you at the Co-op soon,” he said.

The Brattleboro Food Co-op was formed in 1975 as a small buying club and now occupies a 16,000-square-foot store in a four-story building downtown that also includes offices, a community room, a cooking classroom, a commissary kitchen, and 24 apartments owned and managed by Windham & Windsor Housing Trust.

More than 8,500 people are member/shareholders of the organization, dedicated to supporting a sustainable food system and built on cooperative principles.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #654 (Wednesday, March 9, 2022). This story appeared on page A3.

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