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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News Tribune Pat Mingucci, left, and Michael Twehus pose with the awards they won during this year's National Ready Mixed Concrete Assn.'s Mixer Driver Championship in Kissimmee, Florida. Mingucci earned the Safety Director of the Year Award while Twehus claimed the title of Mixer Driver of the Year.

Growing up, Michael Twehus can remember sitting in his yard, watching trucks go by and thinking of when he could join the rest of his family who did this.

For 23 years, Twehus has been driving and recently took first place at the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Mixer Driver Championship in Florida, beating out 65 other drivers from across the country.

Prior to the national competition, Twehus also took first place at the Farmer Company Rodeo, where company employees from throughout Missouri and Arkansas participate.

Twehus, is one of six members of the Twehus family to drive commercially, all of them working for Cole County Industries. He got his passion for driving and trucks from his dad, who drove for 39 years, and other family members.

"My cousin and I are the two remaining drivers, and the others have all retired," Twehus said. "At one time with the six Twehus drivers, we made up a third of Cole County Industries 18 drivers."

Twehus was the first competitor to go through the course, and he said that was a challenge.

"You haven't watched anyone else compete, and I told myself, 'It is what it is, and do what you do," Twehus said.

Among the events the drivers had to compete in was a challenge course and reaction time test. There was also a two-hour written exam.

"At our competition and at the national competition, you don't get to use the truck you drive every day," Twehus said. "That was a large adjustment because each truck is different."

Fortunately, Twehus said, the work he does every day helped prepare him for what he faced in the competition.

"A lot of it's about how you maneuver your vehicle and some of the locations we deliver ready-mix to can be a challenge to get to," Twehus said. "Every day you come to work, you prepare yourself for these challenges."

This wasn't the first time Twehus has competed in the rodeos. In 2019, in the Farmers' first truck rodeo, he took third place and then went on to the nationals.

"After those competitions, I found myself picking a spot and seeing how well I could start or stop the truck from there," Twehus said.

Twehus said the trade industry is currently faced with the challenge of trying to attract young people, but hopefully competitions like this might inspire people to look at getting into the commercial driving field.

"While there's some long days and hours, I still think it's a good job," Twehus said.

Not only did the Farmer Companies have the top driver in the NRMCA, but their safety director also was recognized as safety director of the year in the ready-mix industry.

Pat Mingucci has worked for Farmers most of his life, working at the sand plant and in the quarries before eventually taking on the role of safety director. He was chosen for his award after the NRMCA reviewed applications from across the country.

"It's not always fun and a lot of stuff can go wrong at times. But when you get a recognition like this, it shows that the hard work pays off," Mingucci said.

Mingucci said his job is to make sure the health and well-being of employees is taken care of so they are doing their jobs in a safe manner.

"We want them to be able to go home the way they came in," Mingucci said.

Twehus said he has to compete again next year at the nationals.

"The NRMCA has put this on for 15 years, and I don't think anyone has come back and repeated as champ," Twehus said.

"Michael and I are just two pieces in a big machine," Mingucci added. "We are very honored, and I think these awards show we take our jobs very seriously. If we didn't, you'd just be sitting around, trying to get by, and what's the purpose in doing that?"

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