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Women of Waste Pro: Jolene Johnson

Women of Waste Pro

Jolene Johnson
Regional Director of Government Relations
Louisiana/Mississippi

Jolene Johnson has just about done it all.

At just 17 years old, she joined the U.S. Navy as an Electronics Tech, working on radios, radars, and communication for air traffic control towers. During her career in the Navy, she met her husband, and after ten years, she decided to transition into real estate and simultaneously earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

In 2002, Jolene was selected to serve as the Community Liaison Officer for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, where she served for two years. In 2004, she and her family returned to the United States, and she began a 10+ year career with the City of Gulfport, MS. Upon returning to the U.S., Jolene earned her master’s degree in public administration from Ashford University, now known as The University of Arizona Global Campus.

During her time with Gulfport, she created and managed the first 311 call center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and served as a liaison between the city, the community, and Waste Pro, which eventually piqued her interest in joining the trash business in 2017.

“Through my relationships with the Waste Pro people that were here, I decided I wanted to join that family-oriented team,” she said. “When I was first hired and met John Jennings, I knew I was home – I can’t explain it any other way.”

In her role, Jolene focuses on building and maintaining relationships with communities and municipalities, searching for new areas in which to expand, and getting involved in the local communities.

“We always step up to help, whether it’s a family dealing with a tragedy like a house fire, providing scholarships to local students, or sponsoring and participating in a community event for kids,” she said.

Though Jolene was no stranger to trash collection before joining Waste Pro – taking out the trash was one of her chores as a kid, she said – she has learned a lot about the operational aspects of the business. For her, the best part is seeing how important teamwork is across the company.

“In the military, you have a chain of command, and the top doesn’t always know what’s going on with everyone else,” she said. “But at Waste Pro, it’s more than just camaraderie – it’s a family.”

An example of this that sticks out to her is the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida last year in Louisiana. All Waste Pro facilities in the state were affected and many employees’ homes were destroyed or damaged.

“We pulled together to assure all of our people were taken care of, had places to stay, and had food for their families,” she said. “Some of them didn’t have homes and yet they were back to work picking up garbage within three days – other haulers weren’t back to work that quickly.”

As a representative of Waste Pro, Jolene is committed to showing local leaders who are looking for a garbage provider why Waste Pro is the best choice – a task that can be complicated, she said, when the decision comes down to a dollar amount.

“When everyone in the room knows we’re the superior service provider but they choose someone else because they might be cheaper, the community is who ends up losing,” she said.

To that end, Jolene works with her team to remind them how important they are to the community and utilize the tools Waste Pro provides to ensure their success.

“They see you, the drivers and helpers, regularly – you touch them more than anybody else in the community,” she said.

When she’s not working, Jolene spends most of her free time with her family doing everything from Sunday dinners to four-wheeling to vacations. When she needs some quiet time, she likes to curl up with a good book or challenge herself to puzzles and games.