Phosphate worker saw six name changes at Bartow phosphate plant

The Lake Wales News

Retiring after all these years

PHOTO BY BILL RETTEW JR. Scott Marshall Smith (left) accepts an award for his 57 years of service at Mosaic Wednesday from Plant Manager Jeff Golwitzer. The Mosaic plant in Bartow had a retirement party for him.
Staff Writer
Saturday, January 1, 2011 10:06 AM EST
Most of more than 100 fellow employees raised a hand at Scott Marshall Smith’s retirement party to confirm that they were not yet born when he started working at Mosaic in Bartow.
The Lake Wales resident was around long enough to witness six name changes at Mosaic’s Bartow plant, one of the world’s largest producers of phosphate and potash.
Smith retired on the 57th anniversary of his hire date in 1953 to much fanfare and smiles from co-workers.
The plant once employed up to 1,200 employees, but thanks to technological improvements, now 373 workers toil at a 15 times larger plant.

Prior to automation, and since Smith started as a sulfuric operator testing and filtering sulfur, the 550-ton sulfuric acid plant has grown to three 2,500-ton sulfuric acid plants on the 100-acre site, surrounded by 10,000 acres of company owned reclaimed land and mines.
The retiree witnessed those technological changes first hand. The employees originally counted on pneumatic air tubes to help operate the plant. Now computers run the process.
When the 19-year-old started, safety glasses, steel toed boots and protective headgear were not required on the job.
“There was an operator for every little job,” said Smith, “and many jobs were combined into one.”
Plant Manager Jeff Golwitzer said the plant became much more productive and efficient during Smith’s tenure in order to compete with companies hiring overseas workers at lower wages.
“I just changed with the times,” said Smith. “I never did mind coming to work.

“If I did, I would have left.”
Before safety gear became mandatory, employees didn’t punch a time clock at the phosphate plant.
“We’d trade off if we needed some time off,” said Smith. “They were just happy we got the job done, no matter who did the work. We’d even sign each other’s names.”
Times also changed outside the workplace and in Polk County.
“People were more friendly,” said the 76-year-old. “You knew your neighbors much more then.
“We didn’t lock the house and left the car keys in the car, but you couldn’t do that now.”
Smith is married to Carolyn, father to Scott Jr., and grandfather to Scott III, Julie and Jonathan.
So why did the fisherman and clay target sportsman stay at one job?
At first he intended to get “a real job” when he turned the required 21 years old to work for the telephone or power company.
After working at Publix and for the school board, Smith started out earning $1.67 per hour at the phosphate plant.
“I was paid a fair wage and had job security and stability,” said Smith.
While Smith worked more than a half century at the same place, he’s not an atypical Mosaic employee.
The average employee at the Bartow plant has been on the job for 18 years and is 55 years old.
Hank Crowley worked with Smith.
“Sometimes you spend more time with the employees than you do with your family,” said Crowley.
Bill Scott is a 33 year vet at Mosaic.
“He’s like a fixture,” Scott said about Smith. “It’s kind of like having your family and your grandfather out here.”
Fellow employees seemed in awe of Smith’s endurance and fitness. Plant manager Golwitzer first met his co-worker in the on-site gym. Several fellow workers smiled when they talked about chasing Smith up the facility’s many stairways.
Bernie Kerber has worked with phosphate and Smith for 34 years.
“No way, I’m not in half as good shape,” said Kerber. Most who spoke said they hope to be as healthy when they choose to retire.
Golwitzer presented the retiree with several awards, framed photographs and presented a slide show.
“With his dedication and fortitude, he’s an inspiration for all of us,” said Golwitzer.