brings Darragh's leadership to the rescue
Chris Van Nostrand
After rising to
general manager of Zatarain's last November, David Darragh
'93 began putting together contingency plans for the New
Orleans-based rice and spice maker. Potential scenarios included
a major natural disaster striking the city.
Katrina landed on Aug. 29, preparation gave way to instinct
as Darragh helped the company temporarily relocate to Irving,
Texas, with about 20 key staff. Under his leadership the ad
hoc crew started basic operations: establishing a communications
system and trying to track down the approximately 270 Zatarain's
employees living in the region. Their headquarters became
a double-wide trailer in a parking lot.
Beyond the enormous
logistical tasks, Darragh finds himself managing the emotional
health of his employees. He's maintained his sense of humor
while "measuring the tempo" of the workplace to ensure that
his colleagues are kept sufficiently engaged but not overwhelmed
by the obstacles before them. "In a weird way, it's been really
invigorating," says Darragh. "It's important to make [our
team] feel valuable to the purpose."
This mission is
to continue rebuilding operations before returning Zatarain's
to its home city, where it has existed since 1889. Darragh
notes that the company has paid its employees since the storm
and contributed 100,000 meals to the relief effort, a clear
signal of its intentions to remain present in the community.
Despite minor damage to corporate headquarters and several
plants, the warehouse was largely unaffected.
feel lucky to have been able to prove myself through this
challenge," says Darragh, reflecting on the days that have
turned into weeks in his temporary Texas outpost. Like many
of his colleagues, his family stayed in Louisiana. "A lot
of us evacuated thinking we'd only be gone for a couple of