Rosemary Jones, The Shelby Report of the Southwest’s 2022 Woman Executive of the Year, has a long history of connecting with the local community. She finds it to be some of the most important work she has done throughout her three decades in Tyler, Texas.
In that same vein, Brookshire Grocery Co. also prides itself on being a pillar of the community. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the company and Jones, its EVP, chief people officer/legal, have been such a great fit over the past six years.
Jones’ previous career as a private practice attorney in labor law had established her among Tyler’s leaders. Through the years, she has held leadership roles in many professional and civic organizations.
“She was always involved with our education and human resource committee,” said Henry Bell, president of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. “She was involved in human resources most of her career before she went on to Brookshire’s HR.”
Bell, who has known Jones for about 25 years, has immense respect for Jones and her dedication to the community. Her passion professionally and civically is obvious.
“Besides being involved with us, which has her involved much with the local community, she was involved in other various activities. I would say many were business education related…she never stops working,” Bell said.
“When I work with volunteers, I work with some who will provide leadership and then some who are what I call ‘grunt workers,’ who will be out on the front lines setting up things. She runs the full game. There isn’t any doubt about the level of commitment that she has. She’s very tenacious.”
Much like Bell, BGC CEO Brad Brookshire had known Jones long before she came to work for the grocery chain. To him, it was a bit surprising when the previous head of HR recommended Jones as her successor. When Jones came aboard, Brookshire wanted her help to shift the culture within the corporate office. She began with small changes, such as making the work environment more relaxed.
Along with the culture shift, Jones had a hand in creating or adjusting many programs within BGC. Within her first year as EVP, she helped revamp the benefits program, which saved the company an estimated $3 million.
Then, while attending a risk management meeting with the company’s board of directors in December 2019, the idea of a pandemic policy surfaced. The policy in place at the time was outdated. Fast forward a few months and an actual pandemic hit.
“It was like the Lord was opening my eyes to that area,” Jones said. “We had pulled that policy out and we had already begun hearing about COVID-19 coming. We thought, ‘Wait a minute. We should really start getting ahead of this.’ We put in a lot of time, money and effort into developing our procedures for handling COVID. Brad and the whole executive team were so supportive…we were pretty much ready to go when it hit.”
Jones and the rest of the executive team made the quick decision to provide COVID pay to their partners. That included sick leave, appreciation pay and other bonuses.
“She was a big advocate for that,” Brookshire said of Jones. “She and the rest of the executives wanted to make sure their partners were covered.”
According to Jones, BGC and the Brookshire family have always been big supporters of their people and giving back to the community.
“They make a big deal about giving back to the communities where we serve,” she said. “And it is a priority for us to give back in our communities. I’m just one of many that serve out in the community.”
The company made a nearly $33 million investment in employee wages throughout the pandemic. At the same time, BGC confronted many of the same challenges – supply chain woes and labor shortages – that the grocery industry at large is facing.
To combat this, Jones and her team held hiring events throughout the pandemic to bring aboard new partners, according to a September 2020 article by The Tyler Morning Telegraph.
In February 2021, while still in the throes of the pandemic, Winter Storm Uri knocked out power and made roads impassable across much of the state. But that didn’t stop Jones or the rest of BGC.
“We had four-wheel drive pickup trucks with about 40 leaders and family members loading and delivering products such as milk, bread and eggs to help stock our stores,” she said. “There really was a sense of pride that you walked away with, knowing you work with such people in a company that cares so much about its customers as well as their employees.”
Also during the pandemic, BGC’s Focus on the Future scholarship campaign provided $1 million to help establish scholarship endowments at dozens of colleges and universities in the company’s market area. Scholarship recipients don’t have to be connected to BGC in any way. They just need to meet academic and community-centric requirements.
Alternatively, the Dollars for Scholars Scholarship is the company’s internal scholarship program for partners. And it’s not the only form of employee aid that Jones has helped establish since joining BGC.
When she was first brought on, the company asked her to “look into” establishing some form of employee assistance program. Set up in 2017, the Partner Care Fund has helped many employees as they deal with natural disasters, serious illnesses and family deaths.
Partners can contribute to the fund via payroll deduction. Fundraisers are also held throughout the year to help support it. Participation is not required to receive grants.
In its first year, the fund raised about $450,000. As of Aug. 1, it stood at $1.72 million, according to Ellen Reynolds, executive communications at BGC.
Suzanne Vance Osbourn, BGC’s VP, partner relations and development, noted one instance in which the fund helped an employee whose home was destroyed by fire.
“We’re very proud to be able to help because your heart hurts…we were able to immediately help,” she said. “And that’s for everybody. If that happens to any employee, they can immediately get some support.”
She explained further that it is “just the culture” that Jones has helped create. “That is something we do at BGC. It’s really about that culture, that community. It’s really just about helping people.”
The fund is managed through a partnership with the United Way of Smith County as a 501c3. Contributions to the Partner Care Fund are tax deductible. Jones said it’s one her proudest accomplishments – and one that was not accomplished alone.
“It’s not me. So many others deserve credit…it’s the goodwill of the partners who want to help each other,” she said. “You see the lives that we’ve touched each year. During our year-end review, we tell those stories…the lives that we have been able to help and change with it. It’s phenomenal. It’s something that we’re really proud of.”
Jones is part of many other community outreach and charitable organizations. Within BGC, that includes the Heroes Flight program, which has flown more than 500 military veterans, mostly from World War II, on two-to-three-day trips to the nation’s capital. She also volunteers at company events, including BGC’s epic FRESH 15 road race in Tyler.
In addition, Jones helps with the company’s Community Kitchen, a program that responds to natural disasters with bagged ice, bottled water and hot meals for those affected.
“Brookshire Grocery Companies is a marquee company here in Tyler. It’s just a great hometown success story,” said Scott Martinez, president and CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council and CEO of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. “Brookshire is such an important part of our community and within the business world and involved with so much within the community…our new conference center is named after Mr. W.T. Brookshire. It’s a hometown company and the community appreciates them.”
Along with the accolades from Tyler, Jones’ efforts have been recognized inside and outside the company. Most recently, her work to establish the company’s partner-first culture resulted in BGC being certified as a Great Place to Work for the third consecutive year, based on employee feedback in an anonymous third-party survey. The company was one of 25 large companies featured on the 2022 Fortune Best Workplaces in Texas and one of only 15 large companies featured on the 2020 Fortune Best Workplaces in Retail list.
In 2018, Jones received the Louise Brookshire Spirit Award, which honors women in company leadership who demonstrate the namesake’s “qualities of integrity, professional work ethic, service to partners, high level of energy and unwavering loyalty to Brookshire Grocery Company.”
“The Louise Brookshire Spirit Award – I will tell you that was probably the highlight of my career just because I know the Brookshire family,” Jones explained. “And to hear Brad talk about his grandmother and the behind-the-scenes role she played in the business. It was just an honor to even be associated with someone like that.”
Jones was previously recognized by Shelby Publishing as a 2021 Woman of Influence. In the special section for honorees, she advised up-and-coming professionals to work hard, respect others and stay true to their values.
“Success comes at the right time for those who make it a priority to develop others rather than focus on their personal career growth,” she said.
Jones specifically mentioned that women can achieve anything if they commit to doing the “hard work it takes to achieve great things.”
Coming from the legal ranks, she had become accustomed to working within a male-dominated field. But that never stopped her, and she hopes that by continuing to work with the community both within BGC and beyond she will be able to open new opportunities for more people.
“We now have good, new diverse candidates moving up through the ranks,” she said. “People don’t all of a sudden just go from a manager to an EVP or a CEO or something like that. But there are many opportunities here and throughout BGC and the industry that will continue to bridge that gap.”
For more information, visit brookshires.com.
To read the full celebratory section of Woman Executive of the Year, click here.