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Palm Coast Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2021 6 days ago

Waste Pro Manager Heather Badger-Felmet isn't afraid to hop on the back of a truck when necessary

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Badger-Felmet leads her division in a male-dominated industry.
by: Guest Writer

by: Melissa Catalanotto

Corporate Communications Manager, Waste Pro

Heather Badger-Felmet has just about done it all. Since joining Waste Pro in 2009, she has dipped her toe in nearly all aspects of the waste industry except driving and shop work. She began in accounts receivable, dabbled in accounts payable, did some dispatching, and spent six years as Office Manager in Palm Coast before being promoted to Division Manager in 2019. Due to the labor shortage, she has even gotten on the back of a truck to help collect garbage.

Badger-Felmet had a background in management before Waste Pro. She previously worked for a home building company, where she managed operations related to new home construction.

When the market crashed in the late 2000s, a friend who worked for Waste Pro encouraged her to apply.

“I knew nothing about garbage, but he told me, ‘With your personality, you’ll figure it out,’” she said. “I’m a go-getter. I don’t ever like to be stagnant.”

Her friend’s advice rang true. For over a decade, she has become one of the most successful women in Waste Pro.

“I recognized at the time when our previous Division Manager left that we needed a change, but I was hesitant to apply being a woman. But I knew this would be the right steppingstone for the division.”

It was a smooth transition, she said. She spent her first year as Division Manager getting her feet wet and learning new things about the industry – and then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

“At first, it helped me learn financials even better to make sure I was on my A-Game,” she said. “I made budget every month last year and we even broke some records here in Palm Coast.”

But as the entire nation deals with an ongoing labor shortage in the wake of the pandemic, she said 2021 has been the most challenging time of her career.

However, she said, she’s now buckling down even harder.

“Why am I doing this? What is the real reason behind it? And ultimately for me, it’s for our community and for these guys who work here.”

Supporting her employees is the most important part of the job for Badger-Felmet. It is what drives her to get up and come to work every day, even if she has to work a little harder to be seen as an equal in this male-dominated industry.

“I believe as women we have to lead by example,” she said. “You can’t preach to your guys and expect them to do what you say and see you as equal if you’re not willing to step up to the plate.”

For example, when they recently experienced a shortage of helpers in Palm Coast, she got on the back of the truck herself. She also goes out in the field with her supervisor, Danielle, to pick up misses or bulk items.

“If you can do the job, you can do the job,” she said. “Don’t be intimidated by others. You’re here for yourself, for your family. And I like to show anyone who comes in here – man or woman – that I did it.”

Badger-Felmet takes it a step further. She gets many people coming through temp agencies who are homeless, so she puts them up in hotels and provides toiletries for them.

“It’s really rewarding to bring them in, help them get on their feet, and then be able to actually provide not just a job but a career for them,” she said. “Then eventually we hire them on and they come back and thank me for just giving them an opportunity when nobody else would have helped them.”

Badger-Felmet has also visited employees when they were sick, recommended mental health professionals and lawyers to employees who were struggling at home, and has even recruited employees to volunteer to cut the grass of an ill colleague.

“Some people say I care too much, but there’s no such thing. It’s called compassion,” she said. “We have a very difficult job, and if someone is going through something, they’re not going to be able to do their job properly. Waste Pro has tools in place to help them get in a better place, and then they can come back to work and focus.”

Since day one, Badger-Felmet has admired the family values of Waste Pro, and tries to engrain that in her Division. To this day, she speaks of Founder John Jennings’ vision of being a family company.

“We try to make sure the employees know how valuable they are to us and we understand life happens, and we want to be there for them,” she said.

In addition, Badger-Felmet believes strongly in being involved in the community. Nearly all the employees who work for the Palm Coast Division also live in the city, and she is dedicated to participating in programs like beach cleanups, donating dumpsters and volunteer time to city events, and collecting oyster shells from restaurants for shoreline restoration projects.

Badger-Felmet also takes pride in providing great customer service and keeping her facility in top-notch shape.

“People come to our facility and say it looks like a resort,” she said.

At the end of the day, Badger-Felmet says the key to success, especially as a woman, is simply working hard, pulling up your bootstraps, and setting an example.

“I want to empower other women – and men too – to see that hard work pays off. Our industry needs more people who understand that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of you.”

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