Tom McKittrick's announcement that he was leaving his job as general manager of World Dairy Expo a month before the 2007 show came as a surprise to many in the dairy industry as well as most of his friends.
After all, McKittrick, 46, held that position for 19 years. Under his leadership, the show's operating budget increased five fold and the number of commercial exhibits quadrupled from 400 to more than 1,600. The dairy show has grown from 1,600 head of cattle to 2,300 during his tenure.
When McKittrick took the helm in 1988, the show was struggling financially, but not anymore. World Dairy Expo's financial position has improved greatly, permitting the organization to build a permanent home office and warehouse building in 2005.
"I'm leaving a job I love," McKittrick says. "A part of that is because I had an opportunity to work with people who I liked."
"A gentleman who is from Stoughton and is now the senior pastor at a large, non-denominational church in Cincinnati, called me one day and asked if I would be interested in joining the pastoral staff of the church," McKittrick recalls. "He said there are a number of business people who belong to the church and they were looking for someone with a business background."
He admits the decision to take the job is one he and his wife, Christe, struggled with.
"I've been very active with my church, but I have no religious training," McKittrick admits. "In fact, if you told me five months ago that I'd be doing this I would've thought you were crazy."
McKittrick will be a spiritual growth pastor at the church and will get involved in forming bible study groups, book study groups and golf groups. "A big part of my job will be working with people."
While many people question the timing of his departure just a month before the show, McKittrick says he's not concerned about that. Most of the work for this year's show was completed before he left.
"I have a staff of nine highly-capable people who I am certain will manage quite effectively at the show without a general manager," McKittrick says. "The real work begins as soon as the show is over."
The Viola native admits it's difficult to leave.
"We say World Dairy Expo is about the cows, but it's really centered round the people," he says. "It's the people who I will miss."
Christe, who works at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection and at a Christian radio station in Madison, plans to remain in the Madison area with the couple's four children until their home sells and then they too will make the move to Cincinnati.