'Truly one of a kind:' Jim Reithel and his peers reflect on nearly 4 decades with Martin Marietta

After 37 years later, Magnesia Specialties Vice President of Operations, Jim Reithel is retiring.

It is difficult to fully encapsulate the passion and determination Magnesia Specialties Vice President of Operations, Jim Reithel has for his team. 

After 37 years later, Magnesia Specialties Vice President of Operations, Jim Reithel is retiring.

Before joining Martin Marietta in 1986, Reithel was employed in engineering and management roles for four years with a global service provider to the oil and gas industry. He said that when he first walked onto a Martin Marietta site, he was awe-struck by the company and its people. 

“I found everyone friendly, knowledgeable and committed to working together. It felt like a large family,” Reithel said. “Despite significant growth, it still retained a similar feel for me after all these years.” 

Now, 37 years later, Reithel is retiring. 

“It is hard to express how blessed I feel to have had the career I did and at such a terrific company with so many talented and wonderful people,” he said. 

Reithel said he has had several standout moments throughout nearly 40 years of service. 

First, he said, the championing of safety among the group has been the most rewarding part of his Martin Marietta journey. 

“I am proud of the increased focus on workplace safety. Recognizing it is a journey with much still left to accomplish, it is still satisfying to see how safety has become a fundamental element of every discussion, every plan, and every task at every level in our company,” he said. 

Secondly, Reithel said he and his team were able to achieve tremendous success during a reboot of the Magnesia Specialties business, an initiative he called “extra special.” 

“There were some dark and difficult times following the sale of a substantial portion of the business, but with our entire team pulling together, we reset our markets and retooled our manufacturing footprint to make more profitable and sustainable products. We established a much-improved approach to serving our customers better and more consistently,” he said. “It created a unique bond for those of us who experienced it together.” 

Finally, Reithel said working with the Magnesia Specialties team to make the business ever more sustainable was extremely rewarding. 

“I am incredibly impressed with the recent progress our Woodville Lime team has made to reduce our emissions footprint. The construction and commencement of two new preheaters and the building of three giant wind turbines to generate renewable electricity for the site has been amazing,” he said. “The positive long-term impacts of these projects will be significant, and they were managed well by the folks on the ground in Woodville.” 

All three achievements have helped transform Magnesia Specialties into a world-class business, and several of Reithel’s peers credit his strong will and impressive thinking as important elements in their shared success. 

Vice President of Finance and Division Controller Sam Chan, who has worked with Reithel for over 15 years, said his work ethic is incomparable. 

“He is the ultimate professional. His breadth of knowledge of every aspect of the magnesia business is immense,” Chan said. “His understanding of the technical, production, commercial and people skills have contributed to the success of our division. Jim is truly one of a kind.” 

Perhaps someone who knows him best is Bob Gutowski, general manager for Magnesia Chemicals. 

Gutowski and Reithel were hired mere months apart and have spent the past 37 years working together. Gutowski said the business would look much different today had it not been for Reithel. 

Jim Reithel (right) with his wife Christine, sons Chris and Nick and daughter-in-law Kelsey. 

“Jim always set high expectations for himself and for his organization. He had a deep and thorough understanding of the business and helped set the direction for the future of the company,” Gutowski said. “I truly thank Jim for all his hard work and dedication. Without him, this division would not be what it is now. I am 100% convinced of this.” 

Reithel’s leadership has been remarkable, and in parting, he offered two points of personal advice. 

“First, hard work, high standards and consistent positive results will always speak for themselves. I am not suggesting anyone should ignore the world around them; just keep in perspective what is important,” he said. “Secondly, I encourage everyone to build meaningful personal relationships with family, friends, coworkers and business associates – and do it in person. In the end, people are what matter, and our relationships define who we are.” 

In his retirement, Reithel said he looks forward to traveling with his wife, Christine, and spending more time with his sons, Nick and Chris; the family is also looking forward to the birth of their first grandchild in 2024.