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Women of Waste Pro: Erika Matheron

Women of Waste Pro

Erika Matheron
Residential Driver
Panama City Beach, FL

Erika Matheron holds a special honor within Waste Pro’s Panama City Beach, FL Division – she recently became the first woman in the Division to earn the coveted $10,000 Safety Award.

Erika has been with Waste Pro for over three years. She started her career serving for five years in the United States Army, stationed in Fort Carson, CO and Fort Hood, TX.

“I think it’s a good thing for young people – everyone should do it,” she said. “They make you grow up; they give you food, shelter, clothing, structure, and money. But they also teach you not everything will be hunky-dory in life – you’ve got to suck it up and drive on.”

Following her time in the army, Erika spent some time in college but found it difficult to do so while living as a single parent with two children. She spent a few years working in retail but held out hope she would one day be able to earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

That opportunity finally came in 2016 when her now-wife was able to spend time as a stay-at-home mom. Erika earned her CDL, spent a year doing over-the-road trucking before joining a local garbage hauler in the Panama City Beach area, and eventually found her way to Waste Pro.

“I realized I can work and still make it home every night to be with my kids,” she said.

Erika takes great pride in her work, said Division Manager David Akins, adding that her customer service ratings are very high.

“My customers love me,” Erika said. “I have a few regular customers who make sure they’re outside when I drive by, and I’ve had numerous ones tell me I can’t ever quit – they want me to stay with them.”

David said Erika also performs some of the best truck inspections on her beloved truck, which she calls Beula. It doesn’t mean anything, she said, but the driver who drove her route before her randomly made up the nickname for Erika, and it stuck with her.

“It’s silly but it’s my truck. She’s the best running one on the lot, any mechanic will tell you that,” Erika said. “If the wheels aren’t turning, I’m not making any money.”

As the first woman in the division to earn the $10,000 Safety Award – which is awarded to drivers who go three years without an at-fault accident, injury, or property damage – it is clear safety is always on her mind.

“Many people on the road aren’t looking out for us; they’re trying to get around us. It feels like whack-a-mole sometimes,” Erika said. “Safety is the first and foremost of everything and my top priority is protecting my customers and my helper. I look out for him like he’s my kid.”

Since joining Waste Pro, Erika has become a mentor to fellow drivers and helpers.

“We train our drivers to keep a sharp lookout for their helpers at all times, and she is one of the best at following that guideline. Everyone feels safe with her,” David said.

Erika has trained three former helpers who completed the Waste Pro Co-Heart Program, which allows any employee an opportunity to receive one-on-one training and earn their CDL on-site at the Central Florida Regional Headquarters in Sanford. All three of the helpers she trained completed the program and have gone on to become drivers.

“We’re really happy to have her,” David said. “I think her military background taught her discipline because so many folks nowadays have been coddled for so long and they don’t want to work – that’s something we come up against a lot.”

Erika now has three children, the oldest of whom is currently serving in the United States Navy. She also has taken in several pets over the years – she’s mom to five cats and four dogs. Spending time at home with her family and furry friends is all she wants to do when she’s not working.

“Most days I finish my route early enough to spend plenty of time with my family every day,” she said. “Thankfully there is always trash, so there is always job security.”