by Jackson Lord

Kroger Co. has named its first African-American division leader, promoting her from a vice president role at its Cincinnati corporate headquarters.

Monica Garnes, currently corporate vice president of produce-floral merchandising, will move to Phoenix to became president of the grocer’s Fry’s division. The promotion marks a return to the southwest for Garnes, who served as vice president of merchandising at Fry’s from 2013 to 2015. Since then, she has filled a variety of leadership roles — including human resources coordinator, produce buyer, store manager, public affairs manager and district manager — before advancing to produce-floral merchandiser in the division.

Fry’s has 123 stores and employs more than 22,000 Kroger associates.

“Monica is a recognized leader in our business and across the industry,” said Mike Donnelly, Kroger’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a statement. “She combines a willingness to embrace fresh ideas with a keen business savvy that yields real results.”

Donnelly noted Garnes is the first African-American to lead a Kroger division.

“As the company’s first African-American division president, we are excited to have Monica drive and influence change in our company through her expertise and perspective, and we are eager for her to bring her passion for people and results to Fry’s,” Donnelly said.

Garnes was twice named one of the Top Women in Grocery by Progressive Grocer magazine and has been recognized as one of the “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink” by Fortune and Food & Wine magazines.

Garnes has supported the community as a member of the United Way’s Women of Tocqueville and Herbert R. Brown Society. She currently serves on the United Way of Greater Cincinnati Board of Directors, Mount St. Joseph University Board of Trustees and Lucky’s Market Board of Trustees.

Garnes is succeeding Steve McKinney, who was promoted to become one of three senior vice presidents of retail divisions.

McKinney has worked at Kroger since 1981, starting as a clerk and later a store manager for Florida Choice Supermarkets, a defunct Kroger banner.

McKinney joined Kroger’s Fry’s division in Phoenix in 1988, serving in various leadership positions, including deli director and executive director of operations. He became vice president of operations for Fry’s in 1998.

In 2006, McKinney was named vice president of operations for Kroger’s Southwest division. In 2007, he was named vice president of operations for the company’s Ralphs division. McKinney was named president of Fry’s in 2013.

“Steve’s nearly 37 years of Kroger experience and deep knowledge of food retail will help our divisions continue to execute with excellence,” Donnelly says.

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