Veterans continue to serve us every day | Guest editorial

Michelle Metzler. Courtesy photo

Michelle Metzler. Courtesy photo

Every November, we honor our military veterans. What we sometimes overlook is that many veterans, after serving our country, return home to serve our communities in a variety of ways.

Leo Hotle is a Waste Management driver serving neighborhoods in Kirkland. He served five years in the U.S. Marines, holding a variety of positions, including quality control and truck inspection — focus areas that were key to his platoon’s ability to perform with reliable and safe results.

“The military taught me how important discipline and procedure are for keeping people safe,” Hotle said. “That experience still influences how I approach each day.”

Hotle’s military service also provided hands-on experience as part of an effective, efficient team.

“The military taught me the importance of “no man left behind,” he said. “I feel a sense of camaraderie with the people I work with. We’re committed to working together to do what it takes to serve the customer.”

Hotle’s safety training and team mentality are assets to communities where he drives every day. Because he takes a safe and watchful approach to his work, the communities he serves are safer and stronger.

In fact, Hotle and his WM teammates working in Snohomish and King counties have completed special Waste Watch training so they can serve as extra “eyes and ears” for community safety.

WM’s Waste Watch program trains drivers to observe and report anything unusual along their routes. It could be smoke coming from an attic or a front door wide open at 5 a.m. WM drivers know their routes inside and out — so when they see something unusual, they report to law enforcement. As a result, WM drivers have helped save lives and solve crimes across the country and right here in our community.

For Hotle, children are another important part of his community connection.

“My favorite part of the job is seeing the kids,” he said. “They get really excited when they see the shiny green trucks collecting on their streets. It feels good to make kids smile while I’m providing an essential service to the community.”

When it comes to hiring drivers to serve WM communities, Jeff McMahon, Hotle’s supervisor and senior district manager for Waste Management, sees a military background as a strong asset for both WM and the community. And McMahon should know; he sends more than 200 drivers out on the road each day.

“Veterans bring the skills and disciplined approach that we need,” McMahon said. “That’s why Waste Management is one of the nation’s top employers of veterans and why one of every 14 WM employees is a veteran, spouse of a vet or current reservist.”

He added, “They add tremendous value to our teams, as leaders and role models with an unwavering focus on safety, teamwork and community.”

Michelle Metzler is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. Learn more at

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