20 MIN READ
April Pence /
Diversity & Inclusion are longstanding Values and as part of our Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan, we’re excited to introduce you to the founding members of our newly formed DE&I Advisory Council.
“These are exciting times. This group of passionate leaders will bring diverse perspectives and voices to ensure Diversity, Equity & Inclusion are a part of every conversation, so all associates are represented.” says Monica Garnes, Fry’s Division president and DE&I Advisory Council executive chair. “I am looking forward to working with the Council as we begin to bring our Framework for Action to life, building a more equitable workplace.”
The Council will work closely with senior leaders and associates to ensure Diversity, Equity & Inclusion are a part of every conversation and the work teams are doing is meaningful and moves the company toward a more equitable future.
Monica Garnes – President of the Fry’s Division and Executive Chair of the DE&I Advisory Council
Monica is president of the Fry’s Division, based in Tolleson, Arizona, where she leads a team of 21,000 associates who offer fresh, affordable food to all Arizonians.
Monica launched her career with Kroger in the Columbus, Ohio Division in 1995, where she began as a co-manager. She has since held roles in Human Resources, Corporate Affairs/Media Relations, District Management, Fresh Merchandising and many store and division leadership roles for the company. Monica also served as a certified division inclusion trainer.
Her commitment to being a team player and leading others manifested during her time in college where she was a four-year starter, two-year captain and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team for the University of Rhode Island’s women’s basketball team. She dedicates herself to service which has been shown by her membership on several boards, current and past support of many community partnerships and her involvement with the Women’s EDGE Associate Resource Group (ARG). She was twice named one of Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery and in 2019 they named her Trailblazer of the year. She has also been named one of Fortune and Food and Wine magazines “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink,” and was one of Cincinnati Business Courier’s honorees for their inaugural “Women Who Mean Business” award. Most recently she was recognized by the Phoenix Business Journal as one of their “Outstanding Women in Business” and by the Arizona Business Magazine in the category of “Most Influential Women in Arizona Business.”
As the Key Leader for our Fresh Forward DE&I commitment, Kevin is focused on leading a team on our journey to fundamentally change the way our company operates and improve the experience for our associates and customers while also underlining Kroger’s future as America’s grocer for years to come.
Kevin joined Kroger in the Delta Division in 2002 after then Vice President of Operations Bill Platten recognized Kevin’s customer service and uplifting spirit and told Kevin if he ever wanted a career change to call him. Several weeks later, Kevin was in orientation and on his way to becoming a co-manager. He’s held a number of management roles and from 2006 to 2017, he moved between General Office, Nashville, Central and then back to Nashville before he was offered the opportunity to return back to where it all started for him – the Delta Division.
With aspirations of becoming an HR leader, the opportunity to hold various HR and store leader roles in multiple divisions is something Kevin is thankful for, as it gave him a deeper connection to our store associates and an understanding of how things run in both our stores and our offices. As cliché as it may sound, Kevin knows that this company holds boundless potential for anyone who has the drive to work hard and grow their career with Kroger, and he can’t wait to help show that through the work of the Fresh Forward DE&I commitment.
Kevin is excited for the opportunity to work with our associates and executive leadership team to identify areas where change can make meaningful impacts. “This work is important because people are counting on us,” says Kevin.
As an extension of the DE&I Advisory Council, the company is currently establishing an Associate Resource Group (ARG) Steering Committee, where ARG leaders across the enterprise will liaise with and provide meaningful feedback to the Council. As the Executive Chair of the ARG Steering Committee, Chris Albi is currently working to build the Committee and is excited to announce the founding members, soon.
Chris began her career with Kroger in 1981 as a courtesy clerk in the King Soopers Division. She served in numerous leadership roles within the division before moving to General Office in Cincinnati as the director of Natural Foods. She joined the Michigan Division in 2011 as vice president of Merchandising, then moved to vice president of Operations for the division in 2015 and in 2016 was promoted to vice president of Operations for the Fred Meyer Division and to her current role in 2019.
Chris was named a Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery in 2018 and to the Top 100 Women in Grocery list in 2010. She was also honored as the 2014 Woman of the Year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Michigan in 2014.
A passionate supporter of our associates, Chris has served as the executive sponsor of the Fred Meyer Women’s EDGE ARG, as a member of the Workforce Diversity Council and on the steering committee for the company’s Cultural Councils. She is also active in the community and has supported many organizations including serving on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, American Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer organization, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and as a board member for the Northwest Grocers Association.
Sian Bitner-Kearney is the Associate Communications manager for our Supply Chain and Manufacturing Divisions, where she dedicates her time in uplifting, educating, engaging, and informing our associates using various communication channels to be the voice of the business and to provide platforms for our associates to share their own.
Sian joined Kroger in 2019 as the Associate Communications manager for Supply Chain and in 2020 began supporting the Manufacturing Division as well. Through her work, she has developed many ways for our associates to share their unique stories and has built platforms where associates can share feedback upstream to influence change within the organization.
Sian serves as a member of the Cincinnati chapter of Amnesty International where she does work to help free prisoners of conscience, finding housing for refugees, and supporting them in building businesses and successful futures.
She believes that our Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan will bring great value to our associates and customers and she’s proud to have a seat on the Council to help foster a culture where everyone is accepted for who they are. By being more inclusive, it opens our minds to new ideas and perspectives that can only help grow and improve the business.
Brianna Cid is the assistant store leader for store #394 in the Louisville Division and is passionate about her associates and their experience. She is also passionate about ensuring diverse representation across all areas of Kroger, from our associates to the products we sell.
Brianna joined Kroger in 2015 as a cashier. She spent time in multiple areas of the store through 2018 when she entered the management internship program. After completing the 10-week internship program, Brianna returned as a clerk. In 2019, Brianna returned to the management internship program for eight months while completing her college degree in accounting. After graduation, Brianna entered store management in her current role. She was named one of Progressive Grocer’s 2020 GenNext Award winners and is the youngest female to win this award.
She’s excited to be a member of the DE&I Advisory Council because she’s passionate about seeing change in Kroger and in our communities. Positive momentum toward change came out of the unfortunate events of 2020 that sparked civil unrest and building upon that momentum is critical. As the Secretary of the Louisville Division’s African-American Associate Resource Group, she’s helped drive change through a 4-part action plan encouraging a diverse, equitable and inclusive company, and she hopes that her role with the Council will give her the opportunity to influence change across the enterprise.
Cole Decker is the senior solution design consultant for our 84.51° Division, where he works alongside a team of consultants and data scientists to create tools that enable our category managers to make data-driven decisions. Using data analytics, he and his team are enabling our category managers to ensure our stores have the proper mix of products that customers are shopping for.
Cole joined the company in our 84.51° Division in 2016 as an associate client lead. In 2018, Cole relocated to support the General Merchandise team in Portland, Oregon where he currently resides. In 2019, he was promoted to senior business acceleration consultant and was named to his current solutions design role in 2020.
As someone who struggled at an early age and in the early days of his career to find his voice, he hopes to use his position on the Council to advocate for others who are still finding theirs. Through advocating on behalf of others, he hopes to continue his journey of practicing empathy, thoughtfulness and mindfulness.
Martel Johnson is a store leader for our Ralphs store #17 in Sun Valley, California. As a store leader, Martel builds a respectful and inclusive culture among his associates and instills a shared, enthusiastic commitment to all customers.
Martel joined the company in our Ralphs Division in 2000 and has held a number of leadership roles within the division. He was promoted to Front-end manager in 2009, and in 2013, he was promoted to assistant store leader and later District Front-end coordinator, where not only was he responsible for Front-end operations, but also the development of the Front-end staff, molding them to become the next generation of leaders. He was promoted to his current role as store leader in 2019.
As a leader, it’s important to Martel that he fosters an atmosphere that thrives on our Values. He hopes that with his position on the Council, he can impact change within the organization and in our communities and wants everyone to see that no matter who you are, everyone can succeed at Kroger. Martel has a favorite quote from Kobe Bryant that he reflects on regularly, and that is, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.”
Melvin Jones serves as the senior Human Resource leader for the Pontiac Foods manufacturing plant, located in South Carolina. In his position as HR leader, Melvin is a people champion for our associates and works to ensure that, as a company, we live by Our Values and fulfil Our Purpose for our associates, customers and communities.
Melvin joined Kroger in 1988 as a co-manager in our Mid-Atlantic Division. In 1995, he became a Recruiting specialist for the division, where he coordinated onboarding and training of new and existing associates. In 1996, he was promoted to associate manager, and in 1997, he was promoted to HR manager at the Westover Dairy in Lynchburg, Virginia. Since moving to the Manufacturing Division, Melvin has held leadership roles as a behavioral safety consultant, trainer and manager of Leadership Development. He was named to his current role as senior HR leader in 2018.
Melvin graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a bachelor’s in Business and is on track to graduate this spring with a Master of Law Studies with an HR concentration from Wake Forest University. He also holds SHRM-CP and Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certifications.
As the chairperson of the Manufacturing Diversity & Inclusion team, Melvin has a desire to give back and help make meaningful change that will provide a positive experience for all. He has 32+ years of growth and experience with the company and hopes to use both positive and negative challenges he’s faced to make a lasting change for the better.
Veronica Long is a store leader for the Delta Division’s store #415. As a millennial with 15 years of experience across several districts within the Delta Division, Veronica is looking forward to sharing her perspective to help influence change company-wide.
Veronica joined Kroger in 2005 as a cashier and has held a number of positions in four of the six districts within the Delta Division. In addition to her time spent in stores, she also served as the District 3 Deli/Bakery rollout coordinator from 2012 to 2013. She spent seven years in assistant store leader roles before being named to her current role in 2018.
By bringing her unique perspective and understanding to the Council, she’s looking forward to the opportunity to play a part in the future of the company. She’s excited to be a part of something so cutting edge and game changing while collaborating with the forward-thinkers of the organization and exchanging meaningful dialogue.
Dr. Victoria Uti is a Technology Engineer 5 on the Kroger Technology & Digital team where she is the principal investigator for the Advanced Technology Services vertical in Research & Development. She builds teams and leads projects that support to the implementation of innovative solutions, improving the associate and customer experience.
Victoria joined the Kroger family in 2018 as the senior advanced machine learning scientist and was promoted to her current role in 2020. She is Kroger’s lead scientist and researcher for Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Video Analytics, Advanced Computing Paradigms and related technologies. She evaluates and recommends new technologies to our leadership teams, translates business needs into innovative technical solutions and infuses AI into the company. She holds a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering with a primary specialization in Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Victoria is an adjunct professor of Computer Science at Northern Kentucky University and is a National Science Foundation and Ford Foundation Fellow. As an emerging leader, Victoria was nominated by Kroger to participate in the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Power Squad Leadership program for women of color in 2020.
As a first generation African-American female immigrant, Victoria hopes to use her experiences to contribute to the company’s advancement of Diversity and Inclusion. By continuing to elevate the company’s progressing position, her hope is to attract and promote more highly educated people of color, particularly highly educated African-American women in technology.
As the People Services leader for Mariano’s store #514, Amy strives to be inclusive in every decision that she makes, both professionally and personally. As a woman of color, Diversity and Inclusion are an innate part of who she is.
Amy joined the Kroger company in the Mariano’s Division in 2019 where she is a champion for her associates and helps develop, coach and train future leaders. She also dedicated her time as a board member for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)’s Multicultural Young Adult Advisory Board. During her time on the board, she created a Wellness in Color campaign, serving minority community members living with mental illness. She believes in the power of storytelling to normalize our differences. The most powerful way to support one another is to simply show up and actively listen.
Amy is looking forward to partnering with her fellow Council members and decision makers to gain insight into how business practices can be designed to not only show that we live by Our Values, but also create sustainable change towards equity in our company and the communities we serve.
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International Flavor, Y’all
Murals can make a difference
Memory, Community, Art: Murals
A Taste of Italy
60 miles west of Venice, Italy