Our Power is People: Debbie Radie

In 2023, Umatilla Electric Cooperative is showcasing members of our co-op that make a difference every day and enhance the livability of our communities, making our area a better place to live, work, and play. We recognize that our organization’s success stems from you - our members. Our power is people.

Debbie Radie headed north from sunny San Diego for a job in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The company she was now employed by focused on processing onions and would eventually become known as Boardman Foods. Debbie, then just 27 years old, would start the beginning of a three-decade relationship with the company and a career full of overcoming challenges, scaling operations and finding success.

Debbie currently serves as the Vice President of Operations at Boardman Foods within the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Ore.

Boardman Foods is a food processing company that processes and freezes commodities including onions, peppers, squash, shallots and more. Their products are known for their quality in the industry and because of their diligence, has experienced significant growth since opening their doors in 1992.

When the plant first began operation, the organization employed 69 people and today, during peak season, nearly 400. Since that time, the company has expanded their facilities twice and plan for another expansion soon.

In her role of Vice President of Operations, Debbie has a hand in many aspects of the business from scaling operations and planning plant expansions to working closely with the plant leadership on daily operation and personnel. Known for treating each person within the operation with respect and courtesy, Debbie has been an integral part of the daily operations and leadership team at Boardman Foods for over thirty years and serves on many boards within the food processing industry as well.

In 2022, Debbie’s contribution earned the honor Woman of the Year from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). This award recognizes “an outstanding female AFFI member employee for her passion for the frozen food industry and her leadership,” according to a press release shared by Boardman Foods in November 2022.

“That award means so much to me because it’s recognition for Boardman Foods. Boardman Foods is privately owned and has one operation and the things that we’re doing, the things that I get to lead, are recognized across the United States,” says Radie. “The work we’re doing in childcare, food safety, and sustainability are all things that provided me the opportunity to get that award. To bring that home to the Boardman Foods team and to celebrate as a team was one of the greatest joys of my life.”

In addition to receiving the award from AFFI, Debbie also serves on the Board of Directors. Alison Bodor, CEO of AFFI shared the following about Debbie’s service to the organization “Debbie has long been active within AFFI, where she shares her expertise and energy.”

Although Debbie is recognized nationwide within her industry, her largest impact, many would say, is right here in eastern Oregon.

In addition to running a food processing business, serving on national boards, and finding time to enjoy the view of the Columbia River from her home, Debbie also finds time to serve on boards close to home to improve life in Oregon. Her track record includes service with the following organizations:

• Families First Childcare, Vice President of Operations
• Eastern Oregon Workforce Board
• Oregon State Workforce Board
• Boardman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
• Irrigon Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
• Morrow County School Board Member
• Morrow County Compensation Board
• Kiwanis International, Boardman Chapter

One of Debbie’s greatest strengths is seeing potential in others and finding opportunities to improve an idea, a process, or overcome an obstacle. An example of her problem-solving abilities includes the solution to a long-standing need for childcare in Boardman.

For years, workers that held jobs requiring longer shifts than the typical “9 to 5” in the industrial trades struggled to find adequate childcare to fit within their shift schedules. This affected many employers in the area, including Boardman Foods. Debbie was able to think outside the box to find a solution for employees of Boardman Foods.

Nearly twenty years ago, Debbie was influential in adding an after-school program on-site at Boardman Foods that would support the families of Boardman Foods employees. Debbie created the program and coordinated with the Morrow County School District to have students of employees dropped off at the plant and cared for until their family members were off the clock. This program became licensed in the State of Oregon and provided the children with snacks and assistance with homework.

The after-school care for children was popular with employees and became a successful avenue in retaining employees and building loyalty within families. The program created a family atmosphere within the workplace. Boardman Foods now has twelve families with multi-generational employees.

In 2020, Boardman Foods experienced the hurt of employees leaving their jobs to care for children no longer in school. Rather than continue to lose their workforce, Debbie jumped into problem solving mode and opened up the care program to be full-day care and assist with online schooling.

By September of 2020, Families First Childcare Center was born. This new organization, a subsidiary of Boardman Foods, was created to offer full-time childcare to employees of Boardman Foods to allow parents to continue working at the plant. A full-time teacher was hired by Boardman Foods to be on site and assist children with their distance education.

Word of the program spread like wildfire across the community of Boardman. Debbie Radie led the charge to start conversations with local organizations to find a solution for all area employees. The group opted to open up Families First Childcare to the public and create Morrow County’s first industry-funded childcare program.

The Port of Morrow joined in the initiative and agreed to expand the newly built Neal Early Learning Center for Families First Childcare. The new center was designed to be a childcare facility and includes many classrooms, a small indoor gymnasium-style room, and a 15,000 square foot outdoor play area with a paved track for tricycles. The facility currently provides care for infants through school-aged children with transportation to and from schools in the Morrow County School District provided.

“Our mission is to reach working families and support the industries that support us,” says Brenda Profitt, Director and Head Teacher at Families First Childcare.

Debbie’s leadership, creativity and expansive network have impacted many families in the region. Her dedication to improving the life of others is honorable as she gives of her time generously and works to better her surroundings.

When asked about working with Debbie at Boardman Foods, Armando Nunez, Director of Special Projects and Grower Relations said, “Working with Debbie has contributed to my success over the years as she has pushed me outside my comfort zone and encouraged me to reach new goals.”

Armando began working with Debbie in 1992 when he and his parents relocated with the company to Boardman. Since that time, Armando has left the company twice and returned both times. “I always felt that Boardman Foods had something that made it feel like home and that I belong to part of the family.”

The company is literally a family affair for Boardman Foods’ Plant Support Manager, Patrick Maag. His father, Brian Maag, is a Co-Founder and Co-Owner of the company and has known and worked with Debbie for years.

“There’s never a dull moment working with Debbie. I would say enthusiasm is one of her strongest traits,” Patrick says. “Whether she is working with employees on the trim line or executive level, it lights her up. She is dedicated to Boardman Foods and especially dedicated to our employees. Debbie has the growth mindset; always challenging people to think bigger and think better.”

In her own words: “Boardman Foods is really proud of the community here and what we have been able to be a part of and accomplish in Morrow County.”

Radie’s reputation with local leaders, plant employees, and nationwide industry professionals is consistent: she works hard and she’s for the people.

Umatilla Electric Cooperative is proud to work with Debbie as a Member of the cooperative and highlight her dedication and commitment to the Boardman Foods organization, the communities of Morrow County, and the nationwide food processing industry. We honor the incredible efforts of our UEC Members like Debbie Radie. Our power is people.