Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2005Kellogg School of Management
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  David Darragh
  Dave Darragh '93
Alumni Newsmakers
  James Pitts '95 and William Lampley '94
  Daniel José Custódio '05
  Dorothy Pitner Healy '86 and Mary Sheehan '01
  David Darragh '93

Hurricane brings Darragh's leadership to the rescue

by 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.

When Hurricane 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.

"I 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 days."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University