Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 20, 2014

All of Washington is Merrill’s boss

By David Hotle | Aug 29, 2014
Norman Merrill

In his 12-year career with Walmart, Norman Merrill has worked at six different stores, and the Washington Walmart is the latest store that he is adding to his resume.
Having just arrived in Washington three weeks ago, Merrill took over the store manager’s position and is working to see how the store can provide everything the people of Washington want. Having grown up in the Nebraska town of Loup City, he began working at Walmart when he was in college. He attended the University of Nebraska.
He has a fiancée, Maryanne, and two children, Elijah and Allison.

What brings you to Washington?
Through my Walmart career, I have always wanted to get back into a small town, like where I am from. I recognize what a small town … how it can benefit from a Walmart store. My goal is to reach out to the community and be involved throughout — whether it be with the schools, or the parks, or what have you. I just enjoy the atmosphere of small towns, having been from one; it is something that always makes me feel comfortable. As I progress through my Walmart career, I always wanted to come back to a small town. Washington is a small town – it is about as small as you get with a Walmart in it. It is a good combination — it fit my career path and my desire to be in a small town.

Since you have been in Washington, what do you think?
I love it. The community has been very open and very welcoming. Everywhere I have gone, it seems someone always notices me as the Walmart guy. It is a very good community. I am very impressed. It seems to be welcoming in general. There has been a lot of outpouring. I have already been able to help with local donations to schools or whatever it may be.

What is your favorite thing about Washington?
Probably the people. Everyone is very interested in what I am bringing to town.  Wherever I go someone is always saying I have to try to eat here or — I am very outdoorsy — “you have to go fishing here,” or “Hey, my dad has a farm pond you should fish in.” I haven’t been able to dig into the community as far as organizationally, but the folks I have met have been very friendly.  

What does it take to become a Walmart store manager?
A lot of hard work and a lot of common sense. You have to treat your people right and you have to understand your role within the community. I have worked in a very similar store in a town of about 7,000 people early in my career in western Nebraska. I have worked in huge stores that were three or four times busier. Just knowing what the role of that store is to the given community makes all the difference. Being able to gain the confidence of that customer base and be able to be a positive member of the community.

What are some of your hobbies?
I am very outdoorsy. I love to hunt and I love to fish. My going-away present from the store I left was an Iowa hunting and fishing guide. If I have free time, that is where I want to be. There is not a lot of free time, so I have to pick my battles.
When you ask about what has impressed me about Washington, the parks and the city are beautiful. It’s kind of a good representation of how the community takes pride in itself. The Thursday night on the square is something — having been in Omaha for the last half dozen years — sometimes you forget how small communities rally around one another and have that sense of community. Thursday on the square, the farmers market, the live music — it is kind of a blast form the past for a lot of folks. Even for me. They have a summer fest in Nebraska that is very similar to the fest they have here. I am just very impressed. There is a lot of community pride.

What are your plans for the future?
I hope that I am still here in town. Probably five years. Obviously, being a young man, I aspire to move up with my career through Walmart and get into a bigger store. From what I have seen of Iowa, I probably want to stick in Iowa for a while. Long term — I don’t know where it is going to go. I’m 30 years old and Walmart will take care of me if I run it right. In the next three to five years I want to see how great this store can be – a lot of long-term associates and a lot of long-term folks as far as the community. I see people every day who say they worked in the old store 20 years ago. It is going to be neat to see how I can help push the store to the next level and see what we can achieve. My ultimate goal is to make sure Washington can come to this store for whatever they need. If that means we need to carry fabric, we will carry fabric. If it means we have to sell guns, we will sell guns. We are going to do whatever it takes to make sure the hard-earned dollars in Washington can stay here. They don’t have to go to Iowa City or Muscatine or any of the other cities. You guys take pride in your city; we should be able to offer everything you need within our capabilities. That is my goal, to be a true store of the community. I have a lot of bosses, but truly Washington is our boss. That is the message I am trying to convey to the team inside the store — is that I am the leader of the store, but the customer is the boss. I think that once we ingrain that mentality into the store, I think the folks of Washington will be happy to come back here and keep their money here.

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