In what has become an annual ritual, the 14 directors of the board of McCormick & Co. Inc. stood up before the annual meeting to let shareholders take a look at who was overseeing the company.
But yesterday's session was different.
When Karen D. Weatherholtz stood up, there was spontaneous applause for the first woman director of the 103-year-old international spice and specialty foods company based in Sparks.
But from management's point of view, it was nothing out of the ordinary.
The company was looking for a person from the human relations department and "she was the most qualified person we had internally," said Bailey A. Thomas, McCormick's newly installed president and chief executive.
Mrs. Weatherholtz, 41, who has been vice president of human relations for McCormick since 1988, was appointed to the board in January.
Mr. Thomas was officially elevated to the position of chief executive of the world's largest spice company at a board meeting following yesterday's annual meeting. He replaced Charles P. "Buzz" McCormick, who will remain as chairman until the end of the year.
Before Mrs. Weatherholtz, McCormick's board had been entirely populated by white males.
While the company has not established any specific goal of placing more minorities on the board, Mr. Thomas said the company would consider all qualified candidates.
"We are looking for the most qualified people for the board," he said. "Over time, everything will change."
Mrs. Weatherholtz said she was excited about her new position. "We're seeing women move forward in all areas of the company and this is another step," she said after the meeting.
In his new position, Mr. Thomas said he will adhere to the policy of concentrating on the company's core line of spices and specialty foods and expanding the business worldwide.
One of the policies adopted in the past few years by McCormick involves the company setting up processing plants in foreign countries and buying directly from farmers. "We get closer to the source and improve the quality and lower our costs," Mr. Thomas said.