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Mike Hesse
Mike Hesse

Mike Hesse Named CEO of Blue Ox


Mike Hesse, chairman of Blue Ox, has announced that Ellen Kietzmann, CEO and president, is transitioning out of the company after a quarter century of service to the company. Kietzmann has agreed to remain, for a period of time, to assist with the transition and will hold the title of president emeritus during that time. 

Kietzmann has served in various capacities over her 25-year career in the RV industry. At Blue Ox, she served as VP of human resources and later became its VP of sales. Upon the passing of Jay Hesse in 2014, Kietzmann was named CEO and president of Blue Ox. Kietzmann has also served the industry as an RV Hall of Fame Board Member from 2014 to 2017 and has served on various committees, including the Committee of Excellence, GORving, Committee for Trade Shows & Events, and the board of directors for the RV Industry Association. 

“We are grateful for Ellen’s quarter century of service to our company and industry,” said Mike Hesse. “Ellen provided steady, dedicated leadership after Jay Hesse’s passing and she will be missed. While the departure of any longtime employee can be difficult, we are confident that our new leadership structure will position Blue Ox for tremendous growth and the opportunity to provide our customers with even better products and service.” 

“These are exciting times for Blue Ox,” said Kietzmann. “Mike Hesse is a visionary and dynamic leader. While I’m grateful for my time at the company, it’s time for me to explore new opportunities and for a changing of the guard. I am confident in the foundation we have built and know that the sky is the limit for Blue Ox.” 

Hesse, sole owner and chairman of Blue Ox/Automatic Equipment Mfg., will assume the role of CEO. He has served as chairman since 2014 and his return to the family business has reinvigorated the agricultural side of the automatic portfolio. Under his leadership, Blue Ox/Automatic has doubled in size, according to the company. Recent implementation of innovative marketing strategies and increased plant automation are crucial elements in an aggressive strategy. Increased efficiencies and marketability of the brand across its product offerings have been major points of emphasis. 

As Blue Ox has pursued opportunities to expand and empower its upper management team, key members have taken on larger roles.

Nathan Mueller was recently named director of finance and has become a key component in the profitability of the company moving forward. Ashley McQuistan, HR director, will see an expanded role in duties and responsibilities under the new leadership structure. The Blue Ox sales team will see a shift in leadership as Alex Walker has been promoted to director of sales. In an increased initiative to further establish themselves as an asset to their customers, Rick Kauer has been promoted and will drive product training at the dealer and consumer level. 

Jeff Carlson and Ronnie Merchant continue to serve as vice presidents. They are dedicated to Hesse’s vision for the future and seeing it come to fruition. 

“Mike is a selfless leader who yearns to build something greater than one person. I appreciate the level of his character and his commitment to elevating associates throughout the company,” said Carlson. 

Significant investments have been made at the Blue Ox manufacturing facility located in Pender, Neb. Hesse, as the fourth generation to lead, is dedicated to staying true to the company’s rural roots. The entire Blue Ox team looks forward to driving innovation in the industry for many years to come.

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