Many people talk about work-life balance, but Jeff Virnau takes it a step further.
“You really can’t separate out business and community and my faith and my family because they’re all just intertwined,” he said. “If I’m out in the community I’m part of the family, part of the community, part of the business.”
Virnau, 54, is Sealy native and the third-generation owner of Virnau Sealy Tractor.
“The company itself, my dad, my grandfather and my uncle started in 1961. It was the three of them,” Virnau said.
At the time it was called W.A. Virnau and Sons.
“In ’71 my dad got it by himself and he kept the name because he was junior. I came back full time in ’88. That’s when I got out of college. I’d worked here since ’78. In 1978 I started 13 years old, a dollar an hour, helping mechanics, handing them wrenches, doing some of the grunt work for those guys.”
Even though he has three siblings, Virnau has always known he was destined to run the family business. It’s what he’s done for 41 years.
“I knew it was my career path and I enjoy it,” he said. “I enjoy dealing with people and I enjoy mechanical things, I enjoy the opportunity to get out and be around the public. Of course, being here is fun. The people that I work with, that’s what really makes this company great is all my people.”
Virnau started running the business in 2001 and after his father died, he and his wife Melissa bought it from his mother, Kathryn, in 2016. As much as Virnau is identified with Sealy Tractor, he is also well ingrained in the community.
“Graduated here in 1983 from Sealy High School, then went to Southwest Texas, San Marcos.
I managed to squeeze four years into four and a half,” he said.
Virnau met his wife in college. After he graduated, they married and came back to Sealy. While he worked, she raised their four daughters, Emily, Samantha, Annaliese and Katelyn.
“She (Melissa) actually went back to college, she went to A&M; she’s a student at A&M right now. So after a lot of years raising a family she’s going back to finish her degree and will graduate in May of 2020. So I’m real proud of her and excited for her,” Virnau said.
For most of Virnau’s life he was a member of First Baptist Church in Sealy. For the last few years they have been attending First Baptist Church in Bellville. They homeschooled their daughters in their early years and then sent them to Faith Academy.
Community involvement has always been a big part of Virnau’s life. From school, church, and just growing up here, he has become as much a part of Sealy as it has become of him.
“When you’re out in the community and part of the community we’re just real blessed as a business,” he said. “Like I say, my people make us successful. We have a good atmosphere around here. They’re proud to be out and part of the community and doing things out there.
When I’m out we try to support different clubs and organizations and charities.”
In addition to being a member of First Baptist, he is a member of the Sealy Lions Club and is part of the Austin County Go Texan Committee.
“I do a lot with the fair. I’m not a committee person there because some of their time requirements don’t work with my ability to work our booth at the fair and things like that, but we’re real involved with the Austin County Fair,” he said.
He has also been very active with the Sealy Chamber of Commerce over the years.
“I’ve been on the chamber board I think three rounds. Now it’s mostly volunteer work,” he said.
Chamber President Vince Wollney called him, “A true giver to all he meets.”
Zanetta Knesek called him a man of many talents. “His heart is genuine and he’s the truest gentleman I’ve ever met,” she said. “Our community is blessed to have him be a part of our town.”
There is no shortage of accolades that come in about Virnau from the community.
“I have known Jeff a long time. I worked for him back in 1998. His father was still alive. He gave me a chance working for him. He had so many high school students also working for him at the time in the parts department. Jeff is a great man and does so much for the community. Him and his wife are both amazing,” said Casey Coursey (Andrews).
“Jeff is an amazing, caring, compassionate and serving man in our community and county,” said Karla Wendlandt Kitterman.
“Jeff is a great community leader and businessman but more importantly, he has always been a genuine, caring and giving person! That’s what I remember from our school days,” said Barbara Jaloway Weatherford.
Maggie Kent knows Melissa from her days teaching preschool at Trinity Lutheran Preschool.
“(He was a) big part of our program as his children were growing up. He’s still there for us if we need anything! Kind, generous, and trustworthy as God would like all of us to be,” she said.
“The sign on his business may say Sealy Tractor, but I know for sure he supports the youth of Austin County and beyond,” Lennon Jones said. “Great influence for the community. He helped my son, Conner Neumann, as well as countless others.”
Even State Rep. Ben Leman complimented him.
“He is genuinely one of the nicest people I have met in House District 13. He always has a smile on his face and a welcoming remark,” he said.
Virnau said he can’t see any other way of doing business or living life.
“We’re here in business but we’re also a family business, so if somebody has a need or something, we want them to take care of that as far as an employee here,” he said. “We really want to work with our people. As I’ve said, we’ve got the best people, I really feel that. Our family atmosphere and our beliefs come first, then do the best we can, serve the customer and all of that is the goal and mindset and then help people with their equipment needs.
“To me that’s the goal. If I can help them I will. If I can steer them in the right direction based on some of our past experiences and expertise, me and my people do a great job of that. People keep coming back and that’s a great testament to treating them right,” he said.