Fifty years ago, the milkman was the symbolic image of front door service and trash was, well just that – unwanted refuse.
Today the garbage man is one of the only service providers left who make regularly scheduled visits to the home, and with slogans like “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” garbage is sexier than ever…especially next to an oversized container of recyclables!
Yet, today’s kids do not stare out classroom windows daydreaming about sorting recyclables, cleaning port-o-potties or managing waste.
As a young lad growing up in Long Island, Greg Sullivan, Waste Management’s Florida Keys Director, may not have fantasized about his profession, but the itch to pitch was certainly instilled in him at a young age. To Sullivan, a suave 6’ 2” businessman, the task of collecting and recycling trash is more about community service than simply making his neighborhood cleaner.
“More about the job than the job itself,” Sullivan admits because as a kid, he saw his Uncle George trade in his milk truck for a garbage truck and would often take rides with him throughout the neighborhood.
“I liked the fact that you are interacting with people all the time,” he said, reminiscing about his tours around the small Long Island town of Hampton Bays. “You are not locked into an office. You are out with customers, solving problems and involved in the community.”
One day, at age 18 and already serving as his uncle’s right hand man, Greg sought out his uncle’s permission to fire a driver.
Uncle George replied, “Hey, you can fire him, but you will do his route until we find a replacement.”
That day Greg not only learned some tact but also how to keep emotions from interfering with business.
The lessons learned at the George’s Sanitation would stay with young Sullivan through the years – especially during the waste wars of the 90s when companies like Allied Waste, Industrial Waste Service, and BFI were buying out the local companies and competing fiercely for contracts.
And even though Sullivan leads one of the largest service providers in the Keys, he owes Keys relocation to his wife, Cheryl, a dolphin trainer at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon. They have made their home with five birds on Big Pine and together – are an awesome force on the philanthropic circuit.
He vividly recalls the beloved Key West Commissioner Merili McCoy telling him, “Community service is the price we pay for living in paradise. You don’t get paid for it, it’s just what you have to do to make the community work.”
And Sullivan continues to live by those words – and it shows in his community.
He has been President of the Key West Chamber of Commerce and Sunrise Rotary Club.
He’s also served as chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, President of Clean Florida Keys while actively involved with numerous organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, United Way and Leadership Monroe County.
Greg is up by 4:45 am every day and talking with his department heads before his truck hits the highway. His days are filled with running a multi-million dollar corporation, yet he focuses on issues like supporting the Sigsbee Charter School or raising money through Rotary for causes “that are beneficial to all concerned.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Virginia Panico is one of those organizers who know first hand the Power of Sullivan.
“He does it all,” she readily confessed, adding that he is the “rock” of the Chamber Golf Tournament – one of the biggest fundraisers of the year.
“He is one of those volunteers you can always depend on. His strengths,” she said, “is that Sullivan treats everyone and every task with same respect and enthusiasm. Whether it is negotiating a contract or running to grocery store for supplies, or even meeting with a county commissioner or secretary of a non-profit group.”
On those rare weekends with no special functions, Sullivan enjoys spending time at home with his beloved wife Cheryl and boating with his son who often visits from New York.