A lifetime spent teaching children music was always Sherri Garner Brumbaugh’s goal, and she accomplished it. A music education degree from Ohio State was followed by her earning a master’s degree in education from Bowling Green.
Years of doing what she loved, working as a school band director, followed.
“I enjoyed teaching kids,” she said. “As a music teacher, you spend lot of time with kids, like a coach. You get to know them outside the classroom and get to know their families. The interaction was great.
“I’m still in contact with many former students. Facebook is a wonderful thing in that regard.”
The past tense to that career had a sad beginning. Her parents, Vernon and Regina Garner, started Ohio’s Garner Trucking in 1960 with one truck, slowly but surely growing the business. Sherri had worked at the company off and on since she was young, joining full time when her parents asked her to.
In 2007 Vernon died, and soon thereafter Regina appointed Sherri president of Garner Trucking. Today, she captains the Findlay, OH-based enterprise with over 100 power units and 400 dry van trailers.
“The way it all worked out was not the plan, but things happen and you rise to the occasion,” she said. “I always aspired to drive the bus as opposed to ride in the bus. I like leadership and controlling my own destiny.
“I don’t shy away from making decisions. The plan was my father being here much longer than he was, but it didn’t work out that way, and I was needed to step up, so I did.”
Ironically, her previous music career helped Brumbaugh when it came to interacting with mostly-male trucking industry executives.
“Being a band director, that’s very male-dominated as well,” she explained. “And I’m a mother of three boys, so it’s not a stretch. I do find myself around the boardroom table where I’m the minority. Men are basically little boys with suits on. Raising boys and being around men—I enjoy it. And I’m not lightly intimidated.
“You have to be confident, have broad shoulders, and not let your feelings get hurt when someone says something rash.”
Last month, Brumbaugh had the unique opportunity to meet President Trump and his daughter/adviser Ivanka Trump at the White House. She was in Washington via an invitation from the American Trucking Associations. She talked to Ivanka about the trucking industry’s difficulty in finding and keeping skilled employees as well as the challenges regulations pose.
“We struggle with image, attracting young people to our industry,” she admitted. “It’s a challenge. The more advanced we get with technology, the easier we can make trucks drivable and appealing to young people.
“These are interesting times. ELDs will have an impact. We need to embrace them. They will make us a stronger, safer industry. I want my trucks and drivers to be safe. We need to embrace safety and new technology.”
Brumbaugh takes a great deal of pride in her company’s involvement with Wreaths Across America, which places fresh, hand-made balsam remembrance wreaths on the headstones of veterans across the country in December. Her trucks bring the
wreaths to various states and cemeteries.
“It’s an event we take part in each year,” she said. “We have several veterans who are drivers or work in the office. It’s very important that we recognize veterans and participate in a way that recognizes their sacrifices.
“For four years, we’ve gone from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery. This past year, we took an extra load to Ohio and laid wreaths at our hometown. And we’re doing it again this year.”
Brumbaugh is confident her company will grow, because of the talented people who work there.
“I’m surrounded by a great team of great individuals,” she said. “When you surround yourself with good people, good things happen.”
Her sons are 24, 22 and 18. One is in the business. Another has an IT degree, and one is a high school senior. Brumbaugh knows her dad would be proud of the job she’s done with his start-up company.
“In 2010 we became a woman-owned business,” she noted. “I thought then, ‘What would he think?’ He always said that whatever advantage you can take in this very difficult business, take it. So I think he would give me an A for effort.”