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Whirlpool exec takes the reins at Progress Industries

Published: Friday, April 29, 2016 12:11 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, April 29, 2016 12:23 p.m. CST
Sandy Ham

Fulfilling her life plan to have a second, more emotionally rewarding career, Sandy Ham is excited to take over the head spot as chief executive officer Progress Industries in Newton.

The former Whirlpool executive had always planned to take on a career where she could give back to the community she lived in for so many years, she said.

“My personal career plan had always been to work 30 to 35 years in the corporate world, then start a second career and do something a little more rewarding, do something a little more important for people,” Ham said.

In her corporate life, Ham worked for Maytag for 22 years, living most of those years in Newton. When Whirlpool acquired Maytag, Ham moved on to the company’s location in Amana and made a home at Lake Ponderosa in Montezuma.

Although she hasn’t lived in Newton for several years, the community was never far from her thoughts.

“I know a lot of people here, it is a great community and when this opportunity came up, it was perfect for me for what I wanted to do,” Ham said. “I was very familiar with PI when I lived in Newton. You can’t live in Newton and not know about PI.”

Ham has some previous experience working with nonprofits when she was on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association in Des Moines. Even though she may not have a resume full of previous nonprofit positions, she feels she has the experience and capabilities to lead PI into the future.

“Leadership is about helping people accomplish your mission. I’ve done a lot of different roles in the appliance industry in the last 31 years, never the same job. Every leadership role I’ve been in, it’s really about understanding the mission of the people you are leading and helping them accomplish it,” Ham said. “While the industry is very different, which is good, that’s what I was looking for. The skills required aren’t all that different. My job is to help the team here accomplish our mission.”

Having been on the job for about a month, Ham is still learning the ins and outs of Progress Industries. Even in her short time there, she has found the people of the company the most impressive feature.

“Probably the part that I have had my eyes opened to the most is just the absolute passion that people have for their work here. I have heard it over and over again, numerous people have said it to me,” Ham said.

The tough subject of Medicare privatization is the first big challenge before Ham as CEO.

“There are a lot of changes ahead of this. At this point in time, I am still learning and trying to understand what all of this means for us in the future,” Ham said. “Our immediate goals are getting through the Medicare privatization hurdle and making sure we are ready as an organization to support that and that it is seamless and transparent to the people we serve. It is critical for us that they don’t feel the impact of that change.”

Ham is up for challenge and excited to be leading PI into its next chapter.

“It was meant to be, some things are meant to be and for me this was meant to be,” Ham said.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or

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