When ginner Raymond Miller passed away in 2005, stockholders in the gin had little doubt about who would fill his shoes – his daughter, MaLeisa Finch.

After all, she had worked for the gin, Kiech-Shauver-Miller Gin, in Monette, Ark., most of her adult life and was married to a cotton producer, Allen Finch. When she was as young as16, her father would pick her up after school during ginning season to work in the gin.

During those years, she learned the office from front to back, kept up with class cards, ran cotton settlements and invoiced. In college, she arranged her classes so that she could work during ginning season. After graduating from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with a degree in accounting, she returned to work at the gin full time.

In the late 1980s, Finch started doing bookkeeping for the gin. “When we built the first bale warehouse in 1992, Dad told me to figure out how to ship the cotton,” she said. “As years went on, my dad was the big boss, but all the while I was listening.”

After her father died, Finch received a strong swell of support from the stockholders. “As sad and shocking as everything was, when we buried my dad, the stockholders asked me to take over the gin. It was scary because there were some big shoes to fill. Then again, we didn’t have any choice.”

Gin employees also offered encouragement. “They all came into the gin office and told me that they would take care of the gin if I took care of the office.”

Over the next five years, Finch settled more comfortably into the job. But there remained one more piece of business left to tend to – the matter of her father’s dream of a new gin.

Raymond Miller had run the gin Kiech-Shauver Gin (the name Miller was added after his death) since it was built in 1965. Improvements had been made through the years, but at best, the old gin could manage only about 28 bales per hour.

As Raymond’s health began to decline, he mulled over plans for a newer, faster, facility, all the while keeping his daughter and gin manager Dewayne Couch in the loop. Looking back, both of them realized that Raymond was grooming the two for taking over long-term leadership and management of the gin.

Raymond’s dream came back into focus five years after his death, as Finch and Couch were shopping around for a new press for the old gin.

After speaking with Cherokee Fabrication’s Paul Owens and Jonas Noe about purchasing a new press, they toured a couple of gins running Cherokee gin equipment. They were soon convinced of Raymond’s vision – a new gin was the way to go.

“It would have cost at least $750,000 to replace the press, and we were still looking at running an old gin,” Finch said. “We wouldn’t have improved anything, but we would have kept running. So Dewayne and I decided that if we were going to keep running, we needed to move forward.”

There were some doubts given the state of the cotton market at the time.

“When you think about stepping off and doing something like this, especially not feeling secure about the cotton market, and so much grain coming in the last few years, I did a lot of soul searching,” Finch said.

But she also felt that the tight circle of loyal, cotton producers-customers needed a modern gin. Cherokee gave Finch a quote, which she took to the stockholders. They received a unanimous vote to go ahead with it.

Cherokee broke ground on the new gin on Dec. 10, 2010. It rained during much of the following spring, “but Cherokee told us they would have us up and going by the time cotton harvest hit,” Finch said. “There was no backing up. This gin was going to run, and it did. We started ginning Oct. 5, 2011.

“Cherokee did an outstanding job,” Couch said. “They treated us and the new gin just like it was their own gin.”