How long have you been in the industry?: I have been in the solid waste industry for 39 years—since 1981.
How did you get involved? What was your first job?: My first job out of graduate school was with Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH. I worked on large environmental impact statements for the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, Department of Energy and two national laboratories. This varied experience helped me ease the transition from the academic to consulting world. I learned how to manage my time and get client work products out the door, while at the same time making money for my employer. My first “trash related” job soon after Battelle was with Hillsborough County, FL where I managed one of the first waste-to-energy projects in Florida.
What was your biggest influence?: I have two. Warren Smith, my first boss at Hillsborough County, FL and Red McCormack, my first boss at HDR. Warren allowed me to manage a $144 million waste-to-energy project—heady stuff for a guy like me who had not yet turned 30. I got to see how a project of this nature was implemented from the ground up. I learned from him the ability to deal with hostile crowds, which were many as we sited the waste-to-energy project for the county. I learned teamwork as I managed county and consultant staff on all aspects for the project. My first boss at HDR was Red McCormack who became both a mentor and friend. I learned from him the talents of listening to my staff and how to woo clients. He literally could sell “ice cubes to an Eskimo”. He was also very much a “people person” and I think I learned some of these skills.
What has been your most unique/interesting experience over the years?: I have been very fortunate to have a have a job at three different engineering firms over 35 years that has enabled me to travel across the U.S. and globe on a variety of solid waste assignments. At HDR, I worked on 12 waste to energy projects all across the U.S. I got to work in 48 out of the 50 states on trash. However, my most memorable assignment was with the Asian Development Bank conducting waste-to-energy assignments on many Pacific islands. Because these were highly visible projects, I was interviewed by local TV, radio and newspapers. Who knew trash was such a sexy topic?
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the industry today?: Public sector waste agencies have been confronted for a long time of doing “more with less” from their decision-makers. Practically all of the 50 solid waste rate and financial analyses I have done involved some form of privatization threat, had poor financial planning tools in place or were experiencing some form of competition (loss of incoming tons to their landfill). The Chinese Import Ban of U.S. recyclables only exacerbates these financial problems. I think we will see more communities privatize their operations and many dropping recycling programs, at least in the near future.
What do you like most about being in the industry/your job?: First of all, I love this industry and my job! My old license plate was Trashdoctor—it used to cause a laugh or two when I took my car in the vehicle inspection station. My Gmail account is email@example.com. The trash world has so many facets—accounting, finance, planning, legal and education. As a financial planner I get to “rub shoulders” with key decision makers such as Mayors, County Commissioners, Public Works Directors and Solid Waste Directors. I feel fortunate to have seen the inner workings of countless solid waste agencies. We have dedicated folks in our industry.
Hobbies: Gardening, watching sports and working out at the YMCA. I think I am now an official gym rat. Also, I have fine collection of model garbage trucks!
Last vacation: Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Luray Caverns.
Words to live by: Be the best that you can be.