PONTIAC – Bill Kallas has seen many changes during his 45 years of selling farm equipment, from the tractors farmers use to the farmers themselves.
The salesman for Kelly-Sauder-Rupiper John Deere in Pontiac recently marked the milestone by reflecting on his time in the industry.
“I started out in parts and I worked there about four years then moved into sales,” Kallas recalled. “It’s moved very fast – hard to believe it’s been 45 years.”
Kallas started in 1973 working for what was then known as Gardner Sales and Service. It was during that time when John Deere introduced the sound guard body cab which revolutionized the agriculture industry as far as operator convenience and comfort.
“From there, it’s just gone completely off the charts. The technology today is hard to believe.”
Many producers farmed around 400-600 acres when Kallas started on the job and today, those same individuals would be considered part-time farmers at best. Kallas estimates the average farm operator now is probably in the 2,000-3,000 acre range with some higher and lower than that.
Kallas has enjoyed working with multi-generational farm families in the area. He is now working with grandsons of farmers he used to do business with and, in some cases, great-grandsons. It’s sometimes hard to beat the loyalty of the old days, but thanks to the technology of today, the dealership has the ability to sell items out of state.
“It’s just the way the industry has gone,” Kallas said.
Pontiac has been good to Kallas and he considers it a great place to live and raise a family. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children and six grandchildren. His two daughters are teachers and his son works as a real estate broker. The Kallas family manages to stay busy by attending events involving the grandkids.
“Kathy and I have been very fortunate.”
Kallas feels KSR has been a great place to work over the years. He has worked for John and Tim Kelly since they bought into the business. Prior to that, he worked under Delbert Gardner.
In addition to the work milestone, Kallas is marking 35 years serving on the Pontiac City Council. He filled a vacancy back in 1983 and has been on ever since. Kallas considers city government an interesting experience.
“The City of Pontiac has grown tremendously in the years I’ve been on. It kind of makes you proud to be a part of it,” he added.
The 2004 Pontiac Area Chamber of Commerce Agri-business Person of the Year also recalls talking to kids during the scholarship portion of the chamber program one evening. He told them to get a job they “get” to go to – not one they “have” to go to.
“Yeah, I’m going to be 70 and probably looking at retirement, but it’s been fun. I enjoy coming to work,” Kallas concluded.