SWANA names life member and distinguished service winners

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) has announced the recipients of its annual Professional Achievement Awards.

The Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award

The Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award is SWANA’s highest recognition to an individual in the field of solid waste management. It is awarded to a member or non-member who, through service to the field of solid waste management, has demonstrated unusually noteworthy achievements and/or highly significant contributions. This year, the International Awards Committee recognizes two SWANA members. 

Tom Conrad, founder and executive vice-president (and director emeritus), of SCS Engineers is the first winner. His solid waste career spanned more than 60 years before his retirement in 2016.  

He dedicated his career to advancing the solid waste industry, most notably through the founding of SCS Engineers (Stearns, Conrad, and Schmidt Consulting Engineers) more than 51 years ago. As an environmental engineering firm and consultant to the newly created US Environmental Protection Agency, the founders recognized that responsible solid waste management was increasingly important for protecting the environment and the health and safety of the general public.  SCS helped the EPA develop the first federal regulations and notes many innovations on its website.

Conrad worked on a wide range of environmental engineering projects touching almost every aspect of solid waste management throughout his career. 

Conrad was also a leader in hiring and mentoring SCS leaders and fostering SCS’s culture that encourages employee participation in industry associations such as SWANA to better the industry. Before retiring, Conrad held professional engineering licenses in 24 states. He was a member of SWANA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, National Waste and Recycling Association, and Society of American Military Engineers.

David McCary

The second winner is David McCary, assistant city manager, City of San Antonio, Texas. He began his 30-year career as a waste collector and worked his way up to management. McCary has demonstrated leadership, encouraging and inspiring others while setting an incomparable example of what a solid waste professional is and should be.

Working in Houston, Texas; Durham, North Carolina; Tampa, Florida; and San Antonio, he has overseen program improvements and modernization while maintaining focus on safety and innovation. In 2020, McCary was instrumental in executing a collaborative “Return to Work Plan” strategy for the City of San Antonio that accommodated and protected all 13,000 municipal employees while ensuring the continuation of critical City services.

His work with the City Solid Waste Management Department led to the implementation of automated refuse collection with no employee layoffs and significant employee safety improvements and his emphasis on safety led the City to become the first municipality in the world to obtain the ISO 45001 Safety Certification. The City of San Antonio ‘s Solid Waste Management Department became first responders providing post-disaster recovery relief following flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston in 2017.  

McCary is currently the Region 3 Director on SWANA’s Board of Directors. He formerly served as an officer and member of the Texas SWANA (TxSWANA) Chapter.  He is also a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, serving as the San Antonio’s Past Chapter President; and the United Negro College Fund, serving on the San Antonio Advisory Board of Directors.

Life Member Award

SWANA confers a Life Member Award to a current member based on the member’s length of service, contributions and commitment to the Association and/or a chapter; superior commitment and service to their employer; long-term involvement in solid waste management, and significant contributions to the field of solid waste management.

Marcia Papin, solid waste manager, Greenville County, South Carolina, has been named a Life Member. After serving in the US Army, Papin attended college at nights and weekends to gain a degree in Building Construction Technology, then began working as an equipment operator at the Greenville County Landfill. She was promoted to landfill supervisor and in 1995 to Greenville County solid waste director (now the County solid waste manager). During much of that time, she also represented the South Carolina Palmetto Chapter on SWANA’s International Board and various national committees, including serving for several years as the Region 5 Director on the Executive Committee. 

Papin was nominated by South Carolina Palmetto Chapter president, Philip Westmoreland. The many letters of support submitted by her co-workers, industry colleagues, other chapter members and SWANA members nationally spoke volumes about professionalism, dedication to the industry, commitment to her people and to customer service.