Doug Ezzell draws people in.

He wins them over with a spirit of humility and a genuine heart. After 17 years at the helm of Freedom Industries Inc. as founder and CEO, Ezzell will soon call it a day.

Freedom Industries was not necessarily a professional goal of Ezzell’s. Only after ending his tenure with another contractor because of things that happened that did not align with his convictions did he seek to start his own business. After only 40 days, Freedom Industries was born and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ezzell’s business acumen isn’t something he takes credit for. As with all the good things in his life, Ezzell credits his relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter the ups and downs he faced personally and professionally, Ezzell leaned on his faith to guide him through it all. As a man with strong faith, he made sure to share his faith with his employees, too. Each new hire was given a Bible to do as they pleased with it.

Ezzell said his relationship with Christ is so strong that his vision for Freedom Industries was to not be a great construction company but to be a ministry that just happened to do good construction. The company’s mission reflects that attitude: “To work with all of our hearts in everything we do, with quality and integrity as if we are working for the Lord and not for men.”

While thinking about the legacy of Freedom Industries and what his eventual departure would mean for the employees who he considered family, Ezzell converted the company to 100 percent employee-owned. This would help keep the “Culture of Ministry” in place.

Although Ezzell’s exit will be felt throughout Freedom Industries, the culture of faith will continue to minister throughout. Derrick Vick, who is now president, will take over as CEO on July 1.

Vick, who has worked for Ezzell for a dozen years, said that he wasn’t really a boss. He was more like a mentor, a friend — but most importantly a brother in Christ.

“Doug is a model of treating people the right way,” Vick said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, Doug will treat every single person with kindness and respect. And because of this, he’s laid a firm, positive, Christ-centric foundation that’s going to help us stay on solid ground.”

Ezzell said that retirement is bittersweet.

“I work with the most wonderful people and I’ll miss them tremendously,” he said. “While I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, grandkids and church, I can’t say that I’m not a bit sad. We’ll just have to see how I’ll feel on July 1.”

For years to come, June 17 will represent the 17 years in which Ezzell poured his heart and soul into the business. Henceforth, June 17 will be known as Founders Day at Freedom Industries.