Leadership Team

Without its vibrant team of talented individuals, First State Manufacturing would amount to little more than four walls and a roof. The people form the pulse of First State, breathing new life into this ever-expanding transit seating and upholstery company each day.

Through the extraordinary vision and dedication of our leadership team and more than 80 full-time employees, First State Manufacturing is reaching new heights and securing positive growth for our company, our clients and the community at large. We serve commercial, government, and military customers with premium seating and upholstery services – backed with a commitment to the highest quality.

President & Chief Executive Officer

As a young boy in his neighborhood he was known as the “go-to guy” for building fighter kites. Now, he’s known as the guy with a nationally recognized ability to create, design, and manufacture, and who brings over 30 years in both private industry and federal government experience to the company he founded; First State Manufacturing. An acknowledged craftsman, he is responsible for numerous Aircraft Engineering changes currently accepted by the U.S. Armed Forces. Starting with nothing more than a dream and the best intentions 15 years ago, his small business – based in Milford, Delaware – now employs more than 80 associates and has secured over $10 million in government contracts – from military aircraft seating to mass transit system refurbishment. His firm’s commercial customers include Amtrak, Rail Plan, Keolis, Procter & Gamble, Amazon, pharmaceutical companies and restaurant chains. Known for being intent on “finding a better way,” Eli finds fulfillment in enabling the entrepreneurial dreams of others, and places a special emphasis on enabling youth to succeed.

Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

As the financial leader in the company, John maximizes return on financial assets by establishing financial policies, procedures, controls, and reporting systems to ensure FSM remains a leader in the textile industry. He ensures the financial health and well-being of the company through oversight of costs analysis, production, product development, sales and marketing initiatives.

Before coming to FSM ten years ago, John spent 21 years in the international banking industry, travelling the world and learning his craft. This experience provided him the ability to learn different cultures, practices as well as interact with all types of people.

John's attention to detail and planning skills keep FSM moving forward in the marketplace. He has a firm grasp of how good business practices and hard work will pay off for the benefit of FSM and it's employees. His leadership is invaluable to the team.

Vice President

Sher owns First State Manufacturing with her husband Eli. The company may have been birthed in 1998, but she’s been married to it for a bit longer than that!  A nationally recognized business strategist, Sher is known for her ability to form close, effective relationships with community, business and media liaisons.

In addition to being named “2012 U.S. Small Business Administration Small Business Person of the Year” for Delaware, she also ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor for the State of Delaware and was a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention.

As a child, Sher learned the sense of limitlessness results that creativity, intention, and hard work – when combined – can bring. Sher has not wavered. Today she remains committed to delivering solutions to other small businesses.

Vice President, Sales & Marketing

Scott is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at FSM, taking ownership of all marketing, sales, advertising, and promotional activities for the business. He coordinates with the management team to establish and effectively manage marketing strategies to meet organizational objectives. Scott is the liaison between the company and preferred marketing firm working together to evaluate customer research, market conditions, competitor data, and implement marketing plans.

Working as a marketing consultant before coming to FSM gave him an opportunity to travel the world, including a five-year opportunity with the Israeli government. This global experience gives him a unique appreciation for life and the myriad of people in it.


As comptroller, Jennifer is responsible for the timely and accurate reporting of financial statements, working closely with the Chief Financial Officer to support preparing and compiling of budget and forecast information. If there is a system FSM uses, Jennifer owns it! If there is a system FSM is considering, Jennifer vets it! From controls, quality and training to inventory, payroll and audits, she digs into the details until she is the master.  

Jennifer is known for her analytical perspective, but also has an outstanding ability to think outside the box. Her determination to build long term relationships and to get the best of everything for FSM contributes to FSM's long term growth and success.

Director, Manufacturing Operations Corporate Planning & C-5 Program

Paul has ten years experience with FSM and he has worked in every area of production, planning and quality.  His complete understanding of processes, materials and quality control has proven to be invaluable to our ability to fullfill our contractual obligations. His understanding and eye for quality driven solutions is the foundation of every intitiative and the success of our manufacturing operations.

As FSM’s Corporate Planner, Paul identifies and drives relevant organizational development programs and initiatives to drive organizational excellence which meets and supports FSM Corporate Goals.  

As the Director of the C-5 Refurbishment Program, he executes the contract which includes serving as the primary liaison between FSM and the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR), AMC Scheduling and subcontractor representatives to plan, create and publish the aircraft refurbishment timeline/schedule for each aircraft.  

Paul’s 21-year career in the U.S. Air Force prepared him to be a key player at FSM. His drive for excellence and commitment to the discipline that gets you there has put FSM not only on a track for growth and continuous improvement in existing markets but also in making strong entrances in new markets. Paul is the epitome of what we mean when we say “and then some” at FSM.

Manager, Quality Assurance

Whitney has an established track record when it comes to quality assurance, quality processes and procedures. Having a no-nonsense approach and the background, training and education to rely on, she dives right into the day to day of FSM’s production. Her eye for details and quality driven attitude are essential as FSM moves forward with improving and expanding the Gold Standards that were established by the Valenzuela’s at the inception of the business in 1997.

Each step of Whitney’s career path seems to have been designed for her to join FSM during a critical period of growth and continuing improvement. Whitney’s ability to define, support, train and direct the Quality Team as well as integrate into the administrative team is a huge value added as FSM moves forward.

Assistant Manager, Materials
& Supply Chain Coordinator

Andrea joined FSM 4 years ago on the production floor, working in Quality Control.  It soon became evident that her attention to detail and eye for quality would work well in the marketing department where we were developing processes and procedures which we have come to rely upon as we grow.

Andrea is a list maker with a strong work ethic and her ability to juggle multiple tasks is well known at FSM. Due to her knowledge of FSM practices, production abilities and scheduling, she is perfectly suited to her role, sourcing materials to keep us running along seamlessly.


Director, Human Resources

Kimberly Taha, Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), leads our Human Resources efforts at FSM. Kim’s human resources background, which includes 16 years in an industrial manufacturing environment, is proving to be invaluable and essential as the company goes through an unprecedented growth and expansion phase.  Kim has extensive experience working with all facets of human resources, including workplace safety, but is especially passionate when it comes to recruitment and career counseling. She believes that employees are a company’s greatest asset and the more diverse a company is the more creative and successful it will be. She refers to this as “Smart Hiring”.

With a background that includes active duty service as an Air Traffic Controller for the United States Air Force, Kim is well suited to the challenges of her occupation.


Assistant Manager, Purchasing & Materials

Corey likes to say that he "came with the building" when FSM moved to its current location 5 years ago! Corey's attention to stocking levels and inventory practices were well-honed skills that have only developed over time. He knows exactly what is in his stockroom and can put his hands on it at a moment's notice.

Corey also oversees shipping and receiving and is a master at finding a place for everything. His skills include developing, sourcing and implementing cost saving measures for our end users. Corey's processes are what FSM relies upon to produce and ship product on a daily basis.