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Karen Hester, chief operating officer of Adnams in Southwold, announces retirement after nearly four decades

The first female executive director of a major Suffolk brewery, who started there as cleaner, has announced her retirement after 36 years in the business.

Dr Karen Hester, chief operating officer of Adnams, has confirmed she will not be standing for re-election as an executive board member this spring.

Karen started working at the Southwold-based brewery as a cleaner in 1988 and she is now keen to spend more time on other passions, being with her family and continuing her role as a magistrate.

Dr Karen Hester is retiring after 36 years working at Southwold-based brewery Adnams. Picture: Anthony Cullen
Dr Karen Hester is retiring after 36 years working at Southwold-based brewery Adnams. Picture: Anthony Cullen

She said: “I’ve had such a wonderful career at Adnams and could never have imagined where this journey would have taken me.

“Being the first female executive director in the company’s 150-year-old history, I am extremely proud to have been a board member of Adnams for nearly a decade.

“I have watched my two children, Andrew and Emma, develop their own lives and businesses. Emma has her own business in Southwold called Loaded, a fabulous place to eat and Andrew is an established plumber in the area.

“I am also blessed to have three grandchildren; Isobelle, Liam and Fynlay.

“Alongside that, many will know I had an entirely unexpected health diagnosis, which whilst I have beaten, was lifechanging and certainly puts life into perspective.”

Alongside her other roles, Karen will also be spending her retirement as the non-executive chairperson of Independence Matters which is an organisation providing quality care to help people live the life they choose.

Speaking of Andy Wood, chief executive officer, she said: “I am so enormously grateful to Andy. He is a true leader and the type of person everyone wants as a ‘boss’.”

“Equally, I thank all my team for their support, loyalty, friendship and commitment.”

“Adnams has been part of my life for so long and I am genuinely proud of what has been achieved.

“Now feels like the right time for me to take a step back, I am looking forward to my next chapter.”

Andy Wood, who has also confirmed to step down from his position within the next year, added: “It is impossible to over-state what an asset Karen has been to Adnams.

“She has worked in so many aspects of our business, and in every area she has managed to lead, advise, motivate and enthuse people.

“We are really privileged to have been alongside her and can only wish her every happiness and success within her retirement, knowing only too well that she will continue to keep herself very busy with her voluntary pursuits and with the family and community she loves so much.”