Black Hills Pioneers: James and Sally Ann Neiman
“Once you learn how to work you can do anything you put your mind to.”
4 MINUTE READ
There is a “can-do” spirit in the Black Hills. You feel everywhere, but it resides most deeply in the pioneers that settled the area and put down roots that run deep. Neiman Enterprises is no exception. James Neiman Sr. may have handed the reins over to his son Jim - but his enthusiasm for the business he inherited from his own father remains unwavering. Sally Ann Neiman is the undisputed matriarch. She exemplifies the dedication of women who helped shape the businesses and families who settled the Black Hills. Sally Ann is always where she is needed…because that is what one does.
James S. Neiman and his wife, Sally Ann have been partners in marriage and work for 69 years. They are now well into their 80s, but that doesn’t slow them down all that much. Most days you will find them in the office - Neiman Enterprises - located in their hometown Hulett, Wyoming. It holds a lifetime of memories for both of them.
James still finds work to do on the property. You can’t separate the man - or his heart - from the mill. Sally Ann is Assistant Corporate Secretary-Treasurer for Neiman Enterprises, and still handles the insurance and licensing details for Neiman vehicles and several company-owned properties. Their daughter, Sheri Stinson, now holds the position of Corporate Secretary/Treasurer. Family is the cornerstone in this business.
James’ father, A.C. Neiman moved his family and tiny sawmilling operation to Hulett in 1939. James was nine years old when he started logging with horses. “We didn’t have any money but we were hard workers and we were honest. You just keep working. That’s all there is to it.”
Like his father had done before him, James Sr. put his son Jim to work in the family sawmill when he was six years old. “I wanted him to learn about work,” James says. “Once you learn how to work you can do anything you put your mind to.”
James Sr. and Jim – father and son – share a love of family and business, but their management styles are profoundly different and that’s just fine with James.
“My son is very comfortable delegating authority and responsibility,” James says of his son. “I never could do it. All I ever learned how to do was how to outwork everyone else. ‘Get the hell out of my way, I’ll do it myself’ isn’t a very efficient way to get things done.”
With great admiration he adds, “Jim is a much better manager than I was. He picks excellent people and he stays out of their way.”
It is abundantly clear that James and Sally Ann are very proud of their legacy. Four generations strong - and still innovating and growing thanks to their son Jim. Jim has molded Neiman Enterprises into one of the most respected businesses in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Colorado.
Jim’s son, Marcus - the third generation - has now joined the company’s management team and there is a growing tribe of fourth generation candidates. Neiman Enterprises will be family run for generations to come.
Sally Ann is the bedrock of the family. True to the pioneer spirit, her resilience and fierce love has carried her family through many a storm. This woman is gracious, kind, and has a huge heart for her family - which extends far beyond bloodlines. She loves her community and tends to it just as she tends to her beautiful garden. Never mistake Sally Ann’s quiet charm or gentle humor - for lack of toughness or determination. There is a twinkle in her eyes that always gives you the feeling she is probably already at least two steps ahead of you.
Sally Ann and James care for each other in a way that has a tenderness built on time, respect, experience, and love. They have an understanding between them that is palpable.
Spend an evening at the local restaurant with these two and you will learn all you need to know. She orders for both of them – generally one steak – which she then divides between them. Her husband might want more - but six ounces is it. He is a foreigner in the world of white table cloths and fine glassware - and knows exactly when to yield to the woman he loves.
James Sr. can still can run every piece of heavy equipment the Neiman family owns and some he shouldn’t - he is not above getting into mischief. But James’ greatest pleasure now comes in “seeing things get done,” and the occasional auction where he can collect a treasure or two.
“If you aren’t going forward every day, you’re going backward,” he says. “I don’t have a reverse gear.”
Truer words were never spoken.
In his introspective moments – he confesses a quiet amazement with what Neiman Enterprises has become in his lifetime.
“We saw more than a million board feet of lumber a day,” he says. “When I started out, we were lucky to saw a thousand feet. Skilled people and technology are the reason why.”
“My son Jim and his team put these pieces together. My job has been to encourage him to do his best for our family. It makes me feel very good knowing we are doing so many good things in our communities every day. I couldn’t ask for more.”