Sitting at a booth at the Subway location inside the supercenter,
Atkins explained his journey that ended in Lincoln, Ill.
Colorado, Cody grew up in Woodward, Okla., with his parents, Doyle
and Terry, and a sister, Casey. While in school at Oklahoma State
University in the mid-'90s, Atkins worked part time at an area
Wal-Mart, but the job at the time was to help pay school expenses
and nothing more. "I had no aspirations or interest in business at
the time," Atkins said.
A political science major, Atkins did everything at the store
from pushing carts to being a cashier. When he graduated from OSU he
was asked if he wanted to enter the Wal-Mart management training
program. He did, and he began a quick ascension in corporate
Cody married Sarah, whom he met at OSU in 1996, and they now have
two sons, 5-year-old Coleman, and Cooper, who is 3.
Atkins is extremely positive about his job. It is obvious that he
truly believes in the company he works for and is not reciting some
corporate mantra. "Wal-Mart is one of the few organizations left
where a person can go from the mailroom to the boardroom," he said.
"If a person works hard to be successful, you can with this company."
Atkins did work hard, and after stints at locations in Oklahoma,
Missouri and Arkansas, he was brought into Lincoln as the general
manager in 2003.
Cody went on to say that in a very tough economic time, the
corporation and the Lincoln store are still successful. Last year
the store added 15 percent to its work force, which now numbers 280
employees. One of the areas is showing "exponential" growth,
according to Atkins, and that is "site-to-store" sales, where
products or goods are ordered over the Internet and shipped to the
store for pickup. This system saves customers direct shipping costs,
and several times during the interview Atkins stated how important
it is to keep the costs of goods as inexpensive as possible for
Although Atkins readily admits the retail industry requires long
hours of commitment, he still has found the time to be active in the
Andi Hake, executive director of the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber
of Commerce, was delighted to list some of Cody's accomplishments at
the chamber. "Cody is such a diplomatic person, and it's been a
great experience working with him on the board and the many
committees he is involved in," she said. "In addition to being our
immediate past president, he serves on our executive board."
She added that Cody is the chair of the new Workforce Readiness
Expo steering committee and was instrumental in making sure this
event took place this spring. And, that he has been the downtown
coordinator for the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival for several
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Hake also said that she has great admiration for Atkins as a person
besides his being so active a volunteer. "Cody Atkins is a strong
leader in our community," she said. "I think we are very lucky to
have to a person of his caliber amongst us. Not only is Cody a good
leader and a heck of a nice person, but he is very generous. It's a
wonderful thing to have Wal-Mart in our community, but what makes
this even better is it is run by a person that is so civic-minded.
Cody truly has the best interest of Logan County in mind."
Many would consider Atkins' numerous and varied chamber
activities as paying enough civic-minded dues, but not Cody. He also
serves on the advisory board of the Salvation Army, is on the board
of directors of the central Illinois Junior Achievement, the board
of the Lincoln Baseball/Softball Association, and he coaches youth
baseball and other sports at the YMCA..
Michael Lennon, the YMCA sports and aquatic director,
congratulated our choice of Atkins. "You certainly picked a heck of
a nice guy for your 'Personality of the Week,'" Lennon said. "He
gives graciously to the YMCA and our programs with his time,
volunteer coaching, in-kind donations and general support whenever
possible. When we need something, he is able to help or point us in
Continuing to talk to Atkins, it is obvious he finds his
corporation's goals and his own have melded into a continuing
mission, both in the store and in the community. "We continue to
strive to be more efficient and to bring goods to our customers as
inexpensively as possible. What you do (as a person and as a
company) on a daily basis can impact an economy," he said.
With Atkins still young and already a general manager of a
supercenter, it had to be asked if he has plans to move on to a
larger store or corporate position in the immediate future.
"Lincoln is home and my family feels fortunate to be here," he
said. "The community has made my family feel like lifelong members
of the community since we came here. This is where we want to raise
This is where we also would like to see Cody and Sarah raise
their family. Hardworking, family-oriented community leaders are
something worth keeping. They are also people worth recognizing, and
we are proud to present Cody Atkins as this week's Personality of