Finlayson’s work ethic sets him apart

Bart Finlayson takes a rare break from his work at Associated Foods in Clanton.

Let’s be honest: if it weren’t for money, most people would be just fine never having to work another day ever again.

Yet Clanton’s Bart Finlayson couldn’t be happier with his job, so much so that in four years of work he’s only taken three days off. The stocker/customer service representative for Associated Foods takes a lot of pride in what he does. According to Store Manager Rusty Davis, it shows.

“His work ethic is great,” said Davis. “If I had that all across the store, my life would be easy.”

It may appear there is nothing out of the ordinary here; just an average everyday worker doing his job, but this is far from the case.

Finlayson has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that results in a person having three copies of Chromosome 21.

The added genetic material causes the person’s course of development to be altered. While the condition can present problems, Finlayson refuses to let it slow him down.

Many around town know him as the son of Clanton Middle School Principal Don Finlayson Jr. or as the familiar face on the sidelines of Chilton County High School football games, but his bosses know him as a hard worker who strives for perfection.

“Bart’s real meticulous,” said Davis. “He follows an exact schedule like clockwork. I know exactly where he’ll be when I look at my watch. He’s become a valued part of our family here.”

Associated Foods owner Phillip Davis echoed his manager’s sentiment.

“We’re very proud to have him,” he said. “He does a great job, and we hope to have him here for a very long time.”

But work isn’t always easy for Finlayson. His condition presents him with several issues he faces every day. For example, because Bart is so meticulous, getting him to stop working can be difficult.

“One of the things we try to get him to understand is that it’s OK to stop and talk to customers,” said his father, Don. “He’s gotten to where he’ll help them find something, but he’ll go right back to work. [We’ve told him] it’s OK to talk every now and then.”

Any break in his normal routine can affect him too.

“One day, Bart set his Chilton County High jacket down and somebody stole it. It really unnerved him,” said Philip Davis. “I mean he was shaking. It upset him to think that someone would even do that. Luckily, we were able to get it back.”

Still, if anything ever bothers Bart Finlayson, you won’t hear him complaining about it. To him, there’s too much in life to look forward to; for example, both Auburn and CCHS Tigers football. His pride runs deep, too. At the first hint of the cool winds of fall, he can be found patrolling the sidelines in his aforementioned blue and orange “Tigers” jacket.

“Oh yeah,” said Bart Finlayson. “I was a manager [for the team] about 10 years ago.”

“They’ve been kind enough to let him stay on the sidelines,” said Don Finlayson. “Halfway through a season (former) coach Joe Nettles asked him to do it. The next year he did it again, and the third year coach Mike Harris let him do more and gave him a head manager shirt. You couldn’t have given him anything better.”

In addition to his stocking position, Bart also trains workers from the LeCroy Transition Job-Training Program that come to Associated Foods. The program allows students with special needs to go to work, even earning class credit.

Bart said he makes sure those he trains take their jobs seriously.

“They need to understand the number codes [of the groceries],” he said. “And [they need] to put things in the right spot.”

LeCroy’s program coordinator Donna Fraser said she enjoyed having a trainer like Bart who can lead by example.

“He’s a great worker,” she said. “Bart doesn’t believe in taking days off. I wish we could reproduce that in all our students.”

Don Finlayson said his son believes in a systematic approach to what he does.

“Bart understands lists and time very well,” he said. “He’s very organized. If you teach him the right way to do something to begin with, he’ll do it that way from there on out.”

Bart won’t admit he thinks about his job that way. He said he just likes to take things one day at a time and enjoy what he does.

“It’s my fourth year here,” he said with a smile. “I just like doing what I’m doing now.”

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