Henry Paetzel, retired manager of automotive services at General Mills Inc., passed away from cancer on Nov.19, 2022. He was 77.
Paetzel worked at General Mills in Minneapolis for his entire 38-year career until he retired from the company in 2007. He was also the winner of the 2004 Automotive Fleet Professional Fleet Manager of the Year Award.
Paetzel, a native of St. Paul, Minn., graduated in 1967 with a B.S. in business from the University of Minnesota School of Business. After earning his degree, Paetzel accepted a position with General Mills where he began his career in the corporation’s management-training program, which ultimately placed him in the transportation department to work on an automobile tracking system (at that time, the system used IBM cards).
In 1970, the fleet supervisor left General Mills for personal reasons and Paetzel was offered the position. Six years later, in 1976, Paetzel was promoted to manager of the company’s automotive fleet services, and was responsible for the purchase, administration, and sale of company vehicles. At that time, the General Mills fleet size was about 1,400 vehicles.
In 1985, the supervision of the employee automotive-service center was added to Pretzel’s responsibilities, and in 1988, he assumed responsibility for the car-rental program for the business traveler.
Altogether Paetzel spent 30 years managing the General Mills fleet program. He credited his staff for much of his success. His additional responsibilities included managing the business traveler car-rental program – a shuttle service that moves employees between campus locations – and the employee auto-service center operation – a Firestone-like concept with an eight-bay garage, six gas pumps, and a car wash. At that time General Mills’ primary fleet cars were the Ford Galaxie 500, Chevrolet Impala, and Plymouth Fury III.
In 2001, the General Mills fleet was comprised of approximately 900 units, and was expected to almost double in size with the acquisition of Pillsbury. However, only about 500 vehicles were added to the fleet. The process of integrating the sales forces began with the net effect of reducing the fleet because, together, the two companies required a smaller sales force.
In addition to winning the AF Fleet Manager of the Year Award, Paetzel was recognized with two GE Capital fleet productivity awards. He was also one of the 13 original members of the General Motors Commercial Fleet Sounding Board, was a member of NAFA’s North-Central chapter (past chapter officer and chapter board member), and was an AFLA member and past officer.
Outside of fleet, Paetzel prided himself on his family, owning a 1972 Corvette big block roadster, and collecting auto memorabilia and Lionel trains.
One quality that exemplified Paetzel within the fleet industry was his willingness to help other fleet manaers and his reputation for integrity.
“I knew Henry for many years and always found him to be very helpful and sharing his knowledge. Whenever there was a need for help, brainstorming for ideas or concepts, or creating a ‘point-counter-point conversation,’ Henry was always available. He was quite detail oriented and focused. When he delivered a response it was completely thought out. We may not have always agreed, but our conversations were always worthwhile. Henry’s integrity set a superb example for our industry,” said Stephen Levine, retired director of fleet for Pfizer.