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SWANA names recipients of 2021 professional awards

Seven members of SWANA have been recognized for their contributions to the association.

August 19, 2021

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, has announced the recipients of the 2021 professional awards. The recipients were recognized for their contributions, lifetime achievements and length of service. 

The Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award

The Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award is SWANA’s highest recognition to an individual in the field of solid waste management. It is awarded to a member or nonmember who, by their service to the field of solid waste management, has demonstrated unusually noteworthy achievements or highly significant contributions. This year, the International Awards Committee recognized two SWANA members. 

Tom Conrad, founder and executive vice president of Stearns, Conrad and Schmidt Engineers

Conrad’s solid waste career spanned more than 60 years before his retirement in 2016.  He dedicated his career to advancing the solid waste industry, most notably through the founding of Stearns, Conrad and Schmidt (SCS) Engineers more than 51 years ago. As an environmental engineering firm and consultant to the newly created U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the founders recognized that responsible solid waste management was increasingly important for protecting the environment and the health and safety of the general public.  

According to a news release from SWANA, SCS helped the EPA develop the first federal regulations. Conrad worked on a wide range of environmental engineering projects touching almost every aspect of solid waste management throughout his career. 

Conrad was also a leader in hiring and mentoring SCS leaders and fostering SCS’s culture that encourages employee participation in industry associations such as SWANA to better the industry. Before his retirement, Conrad held professional engineering licenses in 24 states. He was a member of SWANA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Waste and Recycling Association, and the Society of American Military Engineers.

David McCary, assistant city manager, San Antonio, Texas

McCary has been working in the waste management business for more than 30 years in a career in which he began as a waste collector and worked his way up to management. McCary has demonstrated servant leadership, encouraging and inspiring others while setting an incomparable example of what a solid waste professional is and should be. He has overseen program improvements and modernization while maintaining a focus on safety and innovation in cities like Houston; Tampa, Florida; and Durham, North Carolina. 

In 2020, McCary was instrumental in executing a collaborative “Return to Work Plan” strategy for San Antonio that accommodated and protected all 13,000 municipal employees while ensuring the continuation of critical city services. His work with the City Solid Waste Management Department led to the implementation of automated refuse collection with no employee layoffs and significant employee safety improvements. 

His emphasis on safety led the city to become the first municipality in the world to obtain the ISO 45001 Safety Certification, SWANA says. San Antonio‘s Solid Waste Management Department became the first responders providing post-disaster recovery relief following flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston in 2017. 

McCary is currently serving as the Region 3 Director on SWANA’s board of directors. He formerly served as an officer and member of the Texas SWANA chapter.  He is also a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, serving as the San Antonio’s Past Chapter President and the United Negro College Fund, serving on the San Antonio Advisory board of directors.

Life Member Award

SWANA confers a Life Member Award to a current member based on the member’s length of service, contributions and commitment to the association or chapter. The association also recognizes long-term involvement in solid waste management, and significant contributions to the field of solid waste management.

Marcia Papin, solid waste manager, Greenville County, South Carolina

After serving in the U.S. Army, Papin attended college at nights and weekends to gain a degree in building construction technology, then began working as an equipment operator at the Greenville County Landfill. She was promoted to landfill supervisor, and in 1995, to Greenville County Solid Waste Director (now the County Solid Waste Manager). During most of that time, she also represented the South Carolina Palmetto Chapter on SWANA’s international board and various national committees, including serving for several years as the Region 5 Director on the executive committee. 

Papin was nominated by Philip Westmoreland, the president of the South Carolina Palmetto Chapter. The many letters of support submitted by her coworkers, industry colleagues, other chapter members and SWANA members nationally spoke of her professionalism, dedication to the industry, commitment to her people and to customer service. 

Professional Achievement

SWANA recognizes members annually for Professional Achievement for valuable and distinguished contributions to the association, the employing organization and the public. The length of continuous contributions and services by an individual is also considered in the selection. The International Awards Committee in 2021 recognized four members across SWANA’s more than 10,500 members for their contributions.

Public sector member: Felipe Moreno, deputy public works director, Phoenix, Arizona

Moreno has championed the growth and advancement of the workforce within the solid waste industry through the creation of the city of Phoenix’s Solid Waste Equipment Operator (SWEO) Apprenticeship Program, a state-certified apprentice program that helps individuals begin a career as a city solid waste equipment operator. The program gives special focus on outreach to potential youth, veterans and female drivers. Moreno has also embraced the use of data analytics in operation decision-making, leading to him being highlighted as a “Data Conviction Rebuilder” in a podcast by Rebuilders author Paul Shoemaker.

As a member of the Arizona Chapter board since 2014 and its current president, Moreno champions both professional and personal growth for members. He is a safety advocate and when asked a question about COVID-19 testing and vaccines and their impact on essential workers surfaced in 2020, he quickly developed a webinar series about the pandemic and the vaccine for chapter members of SWANA.

Private-sector member: Constance Hornig, attorney at law, Los Angeles, California 

Constance Hornig is an attorney and solid waste management legal specialist who focuses on representing public entities on municipal solid waste issues.  She works in the United States and globally, as well as participating in professional organizations such as the National Stewardship Advisory Council, where she is a board member and the California Resource Recovery Association.  For SWANA, Hornig served for many years on SWANA’s Executive Committee and International Board. She continues to serve on SWANA’s Advisory Board representing private sector members engaged in legal matters, and on the Policy Committee where she has been a leader in technical policy development and review.

Private-sector member: James Skora, materials management and sustainability business unit manager, GT Environmental, Columbus, Ohio

Solid waste industry veteran Jim Skora has dedicated his career to solid waste management, sustainability and environmental compliance. His resume of accomplishments includes developing and operating Ohio’s first permanent household hazardous waste (HHW) collection facility and serving as the executive director of the Summit/Akron Solid Waste Management Authority. He also worked with Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to develop a statewide electronics recycling program. At GT Environmental, he continues to support clients with solid waste management needs in the areas of efficiency, cost-effectiveness and planning for the future.

Skora is a long-time member and officer of the Ohio Buckeye Chapter board and currently serves as Region 9 director on the SWANA board of directors. He is also a SWANA faculty member, teaching the Integrated Solid Waste Management and Collections certification courses.

Retired member: Zachary Hansen, retired environmental health director, Ramsey County, Minnesota 

As environmental health director at Ramsey County, the second-most populous county in Minnesota, Zack Hansen had an outstanding career in public service in environmental health. He worked with both Ramsey and Washington counties on resource recovery issues, including the joint effort to purchase the privately-owned waste processing facility located in Newport, Minnesota. He also engaged in research of new technologies like gasification, anaerobic digestion and chemical recycling. Hansen also made waste management system changes in a way that influenced waste management in the Twin Cities area and statewide.

Hansen has also been committed to centering issues of equity and environmental justice in decision-making processes for programs and services, which has helped ensure access to resources for health and safety for all community members. He has been committed to the counties’ goals to protecting public health and the environment and championed the vision of vibrant, healthy communities without waste.

Hansen served as Minnesota SWANA chapter president from 1992 to 1993 and has been an active member ever since.