Doug McDonald, a Waste360 2019 40 Under 40 award recipient, discusses his waste and recycling career, his goals for the future and why servant leadership is important.

Megan Greenwalt, Freelance writer

October 1, 2019

5 Min Read
Waste Connections’ McDonald is a Role Model for Servant Leadership

For 15 years, Doug McDonald, eastern region controller for Waste Connections, has helped maintain the financial integrity of the businesses he serves within the waste and recycling industry, but his biggest accomplishment stems from serving others.

“Doug is the most humble man you will meet. He is always willing to serve anyone he can. Drivers, admin, whoever needs him,” says Tammy Holtzman, district manager for Waste Connections Canada. “There is nothing he won't do. He just will not say no to anyone. He cannot be rattled—he's calm and cool under pressure, which are the characteristics of a true leader.”

McDonald is part of the company’s Servant Leaders program aimed at supporting colleagues and employees.

“He will continue to motivate, mentor and promote any individuals who cross his path. He is all about our industry and people,” says Holtzman.

Waste360 recently sat down with McDonald, a Waste360 2019 40 Under 40 award winner, to discuss his career in the waste and recycling industry, his goals for the future and why servant leadership is important. 

Waste360: Describe your career in the waste and recycling industry.

Doug McDonald: My career of 15-plus years in the industry has been an extremely exciting and fulfilling one. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in different parts of the country, which has allowed me to learn the business from different viewpoints, experience the local culture in those communities and understand how much that impacts the business. The best part has been the people I’ve met along the way. We have some fantastic people who work for us. I now have many good friends across North America.

Waste360: How did you end up as eastern region controller at Waste Connections?

Doug McDonald: Being part of a growing company created an opportunity for me to step in as the region controller following the merger with Progressive Waste in 2016. One of my mentors had prepared me several years before by allowing me to take on many challenging projects as assistant region controller and supporting me along the way by telling me what to focus on to be prepared. Before that, I held various positions in the company in multiple locations, which also allowed me to learn the business from different angles. But all this was driven by people who cared about my success and took the time to put in the effort to help me.

Waste360: What does the eastern region controller do?

Doug McDonald: Number one is to ensure the financial integrity of the financial statements for the region. To accomplish this, the region controller ensures we have the best people in the right spots. Second, the region controller’s job is to assist those team members and help them with whatever they may need. There are 42 controllers in the eastern region, and they are my number one priority. I’m here to help them grow.

Waste360: What is a servant leader at Waste Connections?

Doug McDonald: A servant leader at Waste Connections is a person who does whatever is necessary to support those around them, or serving them to help them be successful. It’s not about you at Waste Connections; it’s about all of us and doing whatever we can to help each other be successful.

Waste360: What does being a servant leader mean to you?

Doug McDonald: I feel very fortunate to have found a company and industry that lines up with how I like to operate, and I don’t take anything for granted. So professionally, it means everything to me. I really learned this from my father. He always worked extremely hard but treated people fairly and was always willing to help those around him. So coming on with Waste Connections in early 2004 felt natural. We work as a team at Waste Connections. It’s not about me here; it’s about we and working together to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Additionally, I have the ability to get involved in the business under our decentralized business model and to help out where needed.

Waste360: What makes you passionate about the waste and recycling industry?

Doug McDonald: Hands down, the people. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another industry with more hardworking, down-to-earth, passionate people than in the waste industry. This is an extremely dangerous, necessary and tough business. The people in it do it day in and day out, putting themselves out there to help keep our communities clean. That is something special and really takes a servant’s heart to do. It’s not for everyone. We have fantastic, hardworking people that I’m lucky enough to get to work with every day.

Waste360: What is your greatest achievement?

Doug McDonald: It’s having the opportunity to take what someone has taken the time to teach me—both from before Waste Connections, from my mother and father and from multiple mentors I’ve had since joining the team—and then be able to share that with others and watch them succeed in this industry. I feel that is my greatest achievement. There are multiple specific examples, but the greatest is having the chance to explain opportunities to people interviewing from outside the industry and then see them grab it, work hard and grow within the company. Nothing’s more rewarding.

Waste360: What are some of your career goals for the future?

Doug McDonald: That’s easy for me: do whatever I can to keep the servant leadership culture alive and growing at Waste Connections, along with helping the company and those of us fortunate enough to work here be successful.

Waste360: If you weren’t in this industry, what else can you see yourself doing?

Doug McDonald: Good question. For me, it’s about the culture, the team and doing something with a purpose that’s important—to be part of something special. This industry is an exceptional one, a very necessary one and has the best people. I’m glad I found it.

Waste360: What is your favorite thing to do outside of the office?

Doug McDonald: Spend time with my family, whether it be visiting my family back home or attending my children’s events—cheerleading, dance and baseball—along with a good Waste Connections party are my favorite things outside of work.

About the Author(s)

Megan Greenwalt

Freelance writer, Waste360

Megan Greenwalt is a freelance writer based in Youngstown, Ohio, covering collection & transfer and technology for Waste360. She also is the marketing and communications advisor for a property preservation company in Valley View, Ohio, and a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Prior to her current roles, Greenwalt served as the associate editor of Waste & Recycling News for three years and as features editor for a local newspaper in Warren, Ohio, for more than five years. Greenwalt is a 2002 graduate of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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