NWRA Hall of Fame: Terry Guerin

NWRA Hall of Fame: Terry Guerin

In the early stages of his career, Terry Guerin held many different positions in various sectors, including academics, environmental health and social services as well as the Episcopal Church. He served on the vestries of Episcopal Churches in Marquette and Munising, Mich., and Anderson, Ind. He was elected to the Diocesan Council of Northern Michigan in the mid-70s and then to the National House of Deputies in 1979.

Once Guerin entered the waste and recycling industry in 1986, he found his niche. “I like to say I worked my way up from academics to garbage,” says Guerin, vice president, corporate government affairs at AZO Services. “There was no planning in how my career [unfolded], and I was hired for some jobs I probably should not have gotten. But I was successful in those positions, and each of those positions gave me experience crucial for the next one.”

Guerin got his start in the waste and recycling industry working as the executive director of the Flint Environmental Action Team [FEAT] Foundation. The original purpose of the foundation was to initiate beautification projects in Flint, Mich., and become more involved in environmental issues including recycling. Guerin was hired to initiate a for-profit venture in a nonprofit setting with profits funneled back into the mission of the foundation. He oversaw the building and operation of a 900-ton-per-week glass processing facility and convinced a paper company in Chicago to provide a baler in return for a continuous supply of cardboard. Guerin also hired individuals with special needs, which earned FEAT a Special Needs Employer of the Year Award.

During this time, Guerin was also elected president of the Michigan Recycling Coalition and was appointed by Governor James Blanchard to chair his Recycling Promotion Advisory Committee. Due to committee recommendations, Blanchard issued executive orders requiring state entities to purchase paper with post-consumer content. Barriers to recycling in general were also identified.

When the glass processing facility was sold, Guerin became vice president of development for Midway Cullet, the largest glass processing facility in Michigan, where he received grant funds to expand facility operations. While at Midway, Guerin, who was still chairman of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, was elected to the National Recycling Coalition’s (NRC) Board of Directors.

In 1990, Guerin was asked to become the first administrator of solid waste management in Wayne County, Mich. His responsibility was to implement the solid waste plan for Wayne County’s 34 municipalities. While there, he served on the Board of Directors of Recycle Ann Arbor, Mich., and was first elected vice president of the National Recycling Coalition and then president in 1992. While president of NRC, Guerin oversaw the implementation of the Murray Fox Scholarship Trust Fund, and he served on that trust fund board until three years ago. Scholarships continue to be rewarded annually to college students enrolled in environmental studies.

In 1992, Guerin was asked to join Granger Companies (“the dark side,” as his former boss of Wayne County described) in Lansing, Mich., where he ended up serving as director of governmental affairs for 10 years. During that time, Guerin also served as chairperson of the Michigan Waste Industries Association from 1996 to 1999 and served on numerous legislative and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality committees. Some of those included serving on an ongoing basis as an adjunct member of the Michigan Senate Select Committee on Reuse, Recycle, and Return of Materials; member of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (MDNR) Plan Review Committee; member of MDNR’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee; primary industry spokesperson on attempts to revise Michigan’s Drain Code; and numerous county solid waste planning committees. Guerin is especially proud of his involvement in the acceptance of acreage, as opposed to capacity, in solid waste management plans; fee versus tax issues; intra movement of waste issues; import and export fees; the allowance of de minimis amounts of material in landfill bans; the inclusion of technology transfer in a holistic approach to recycling; and other issues.

In 2000, Governor John Engler appointed Guerin as the industry representative on his Waste Importation Task Force Committee. The industry’s position was to defend waste as a commodity subject to the Interstate Commerce clause and to protect the movement of solid waste between the United States and Canada.

In 2002, Guerin retired, and after one week of leisure, Guerin was hired by AZO Services to represent its solid waste interests in Indiana and Michigan. Guerin still works for the Balkemas, and he is currently the vice president of corporate government affairs in Indiana and Kentucky.

During his tenure, Guerin was actively involved in legislative issues and very involved with the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). Guerin served as the Indiana chapter chairperson of NWRA from 2009 to 2018. During that time, numerous legislative accomplishments were implemented, mostly limiting the capabilities of solid waste management districts. “Slow Down to Get Around” was adopted, sales taxes on recycling containers were limited and a recycling data collection requirement was adopted.

Guerin has also served on the NWRA Services Board of Governors since 2011. He served as vice chair of the Services Board of Governors for two terms, chairman for two terms and served two terms on the Board of Trustees.

Additionally, Guerin received a special Governor’s Award in 2013 and a Member of the Year Award in 2015. While Governor, Vice President Mike Pence appointed Guerin to the Recycle Market Development Board in Indiana. He was reappointed in 2020 by Governor Eric Holcomb. These notable efforts, along with many others, led to Guerin’s 2020 NWRA Hall of Fame induction.

“It has been a real joy working with NWRA over the years, especially on some of the industry issues on the state level,” he says. “People usually join the Association because of issues at the state and local levels, which is what gets covered by the chapters. Issues are also addressed, of course, at the Federal level by NWRA, where both small and large companies have a voice.”

“There is nothing more satisfying than being recognized by your peers, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without a lot of support,” adds Guerin. “This induction means a lot to me, and I owe this honor to them, especially to Mike and John Balkema and to many others in the industry who have been the nucleus to my success.”

As Guerin prepares for his second attempt at retirement in the near future, his advice for industry leaders is to not be afraid of attempting new challenges, have confidence that everything will work out in the long run and be able to adapt and be flexible.