How long have you been in the industry?: More than six years. American Waste Control has been around since 1980. Our visionary founder and President and CEO, Kenneth Burkett, set the company on a great course; so when I came onboard in 2013, my role was to oversee and carry out the day-to-day activities and operations with Kenny. He is there every day side-by-side with me carrying on the company.
How did you get involved?: My first exposure to the industry was in 1997 when I met Kenny, who is my stepfather. Before I came onboard as Vice President in 2013, I owned a marketing and public relations company with nine employees and we represented a number of industries, including waste and recycling. It was a lot of fun, but nothing quite as fun as the trash business. I had been watching Kenny since the late 1990s and I was always inspired by him and anything I could do to learn from him was a tremendous honor and privilege. Kenny is a great friend and leader and mentor to me. When the opportunity presented itself, I was delighted to join the company.
Who was your biggest influence?: Kenny is by far my biggest influence. For him it is all about hard work, integrity, keeping your word and keeping focused on what really matters in this industry—the people. Kenny is very hands on; he does not lead from the sideline. He taught us, the management team, to lead by example and do not be afraid to get your hands dirty, stay late, appreciate your drivers, etc. If something came up with a driver’s family and they could not do their route, then you get in that truck and perform that task.
What has been your most unique experience over the years?: Because my background is in marketing and PR, I had the honor of working in multiple environments; however, the one thing I like the most about the waste and recycling industry is that the people are the salt of the earth. You can shake their hand, make a business deal and they will keep their word. This is what we try to instill in every one of our employees. We have a particular driver who has been around for decades who goes above and beyond with his route and customers. I have not seen anything like it in any other industry and to me that stands out. I see the way the people in the industry take ownership and pride in their work and I think it is mind-blowing and unique to this industry and that is one of the things I love about it.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the industry today?: Safety is always one of our top concerns. This is a dangerous industry. Every night that I go to bed and put my head on my pillow knowing that our drivers, mechanics and workers at our transfer station, MRF and waste-to-energy landfill are safe, I can rest easy, but I also know that it is going to start all over again at 11pm.
What do you like most about being in the industry?: I get to see the big picture every day—from the route that is hauling the polycarts curbside in a small community, to our fully integrated waste solutions that have 135 trucks involved in the collection. to the process at our MRF and recycling plant, and then the final destination to our waste-to-energy landfill. I get to see the full integration of everything that is American Waste Control. It is amazing. The fact that it takes place in Northeast Oklahoma is fantastic; it is a very sustainable story all the way down to our landfill honeybees that produce honey and our all natural lip balm and landfill honey. I appreciate the big picture and it is very rewarding. It could not happen without the people we have.
Hobbies: Anything my family is into is my hobby. That is the way I like to relax and unwind. I have five kids (three boys and two girls) and they are all involved in different things. My oldest son is about to start football again so supporting him and my other sons’ interests have been hobbies. My girls love horses, so I feel like that is going to become a hobby of mine as well.
Last vacation: Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks, outside of Branson. It is beautiful; we had lot of fun.
Words to live by: If you can help others accomplish their goals and build others up, then yours are going to get accomplished too.