Valenzuela takes over Douglas Walmart

Oscar Valenzuela, the new manager at Walmart, sorts through some of the flowers inside his store.

Douglas native Oscar Valenzuela was recently ascended to the position of manager for the Douglas Walmart replacing Vicente Verdugo who has been reassigned to manage a store in Marana, north of Tucson.

Valenzuela is a 1991 Douglas High School graduate. He has an associate’s degree from Cochise College and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Western International University. He has been an employee of Walmart 22 years starting as a part-time sales associate in the hardware department.

“Once I started working here I was able to move up quickly,” he said. “I became a salaried member of management within a year.”

For the past four years, Valenzuela has been working closely with Verdugo co-managing the Douglas store.

“I’m extremely excited about this opportunity,” he said. “I know what needs to get done here. I feel I know what the community wants. Being from here, I feel I have a better feel for what our customers want. I want us to stay very involved in the Douglas community.”

Rick Velasco, another Douglas native who is now the district manager, and was the first manager of Walmart when it opened in Douglas, said when he approached Verdugo about relocating to Marana, Valenzuela was the good choice to succeed him.

“The move to get Vicente out here was strategic,” Velasco said. “I also knew I had a good fit for Douglas in Oscar. He had already demonstrated that in his previous role. I wanted someone who really has a connection to not only the hourly associates, but also the community and Oscar brings that. He competed against quite a few people from not only the district but the region as well for this position.”

Valenzuela took over just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to affect many families and businesses across the country.

The Douglas Walmart used to be a 24-hour store. Prior to the pandemic, Walmart had adjusted its hours from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. and just recently readjusted its hours once again from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. allowing its associates more time to restock the shelves that were being emptied by people expressing apprehension over the pandemic.

“This has been challenging because of all the adjustments we’ve had to go through,” Valenzuela said. “The demand has increased on products we provide here. I feel we’ve done a pretty good job of coping. Despite our reduced hours, sales have been just as good as they were when we were open 24-hours.”

Valenzuela admits he was stunned to see how fast certain products were going off the shelves as the pandemic was hitting.

Currently there are 287 employees working at the Douglas Walmart and Valenzuela said he is currently hiring temporary associates.

“All our associates must wear masks and gloves,” he said. “We’re constantly cleaning the store, spraying down the shopping carts, trying to keep everyone safe.”

He said many of their customers are taking advantage of online shopping and curbside delivery Walmart offers.

“That has been a very good addition to our store,” he said, adding he’s had to pull associates off other tasks in order to help fill the online orders.

When asked about leaving Douglas, Verdugo said he really enjoyed being the manager of the Douglas Walmart but when approached about managing a larger store in Marana he felt he had to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I’m always looking for a challenge and this store (in Marana) provides that,” he said. “Douglas will always be a special place for us. My wife’s parents are from there. My kids were born there. We’ll come back and visit.”

Velasco said, “Both (Oscar and Vicente) worked for me and I’m really proud of both of them. There are some good things happening in Douglas as far as Walmart goes and I see Oscar being a big part of that. He has a good knowledge of the business plus his experience makes him a perfect fit for that store.”