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cover story
Story by Susan O'Connor, Photos By Dero Sanford

Guy Enchelmayer is a planner, a forward thinker. So it is no surprise that his professional legacy — Legacy Landfill — is poised to serve the citizens of Craighead County for hundreds of years.

As he speaks about his personal philosophy, an innate wisdom is apparent.
“You set a general direction,” Enchelmayer said with deliberation, “and your decisions are the building blocks that lead to goals. In my personal life, my faith, my business life, I’ve tried to be very forward thinking. You can’t get so bogged down with the everyday minutia of what will happen between now and Wednesday that you fail to see the grand scheme of things.”

During his tenure as executive director of the Craighead County Solid Waste Authority from 1995 to 2007, massive, sweeping changes occurred in the way the county’s waste was handled.

In the 1980s, the state Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) “pushed hard” for all the nearly 500 known “dumps” in the state to either close, or be brought into compliance as sanitary landfills, according to Enchelmayer.

He noted that Arkansas has been very proactive environmentally compared to neighboring states.

“Arkansas adopted a very proactive position early in the life of the EPA beginning in the mid 1970s,” the University of Mississippi graduate said. “EPA regulations were accepted as the minimum standards for the state, and many were made more stringent as needed. Some of our neighboring states resisted some of the regulations due to the cost and infringement to established industries. Over time, all have moved to the level that Arkansas has.”

A joint effort between the City of Jonesboro and the Craighead County Solid Waste Authority was formed and the county landfill opened in 1991. The city continued to use the landfill on Strawfloor Drive for Class 4 material and green waste processing until it closed in 2004.

When Enchelmayer took the landfill director’s position, following eight years as executive director of the East Arkansas Business Incubator System on behalf of Arkansas State University, the county landfill had no infrastructure to speak of – simply a shed, employee break room and some aged equipment.
His business management experience took over, and Enchelmayer led the effort to develop a state-of-the-art sanitary landfill that is environmentally responsible and a shining star in the industry.

“Legacy Landfill is a super, super facility,” said Robert Hunter, manager of recycling and marketing at ADEQ. “It’s at the top of the list in Arkansas. Guy and the authority put lot of thought into the design. It is lucky for the residents and businesses in Craighead County that there was a group of businessmen and women with a vision to see the need to offer proper solid waste management opportunities.”

A drive through the facility reveals not only infrastructure that makes the work of dealing with trash safe and highly efficient, but the roads are nicely paved and regularly cleaned with a sweeper to make sure no waste leaves the grounds on the wheels of vehicles. Three enormous scales weigh vehicles under a covered canopy. Garbage trucks are taken through a wash process after dumping on the landfill, and citizens bring their trash to an enclosed building away from the elements.

Enchelmayer visited landfills across the country, accompanied by project engineer Robert Hendrix, to establish a plan.

“Had we not had the concept developed, if we hadn’t been thinking and developing plans all these years, when push came to shove, we wouldn’t have been ready to do it.

“As you develop a Legacy Landfill, you are placing waste you don’t want to be part of your life — your existence — somewhere and sealing it off so it won’t adversely affect our community. It is a solution that will last 1,000 years. They won’t need to ever find another place for this immediate region. It will last to perpetuity.”

Enchelmayer said the relocation to Legacy took about seven years, from the initial development of the concept to comple- tion. A $6 million bond issue financed the project.

Enchelmayer credits his 12-member board with the project’s ultimate success, most vitally Charles Frierson, board president at the time. His management staff, also was invaluable, he said, including current executive director Angela Sparks and director of operations Ronnie Lumley, and retired managers Marie Pippin and J.T. Rogers.

“I was very blessed with good people,” he said. “I believe in an axiom in business that good people attract good people. The successes during the 12 years that I managed the landfill were directly because of the staff.”

BLUE BAG PROGRAM
Jonesboro’s first curbside pickup of recyclables, or the “blue bag” program, arrived on the scene in 1994 in response to ADEQ/EPA regulations of 1991, which required cities of a certain size to provide an opportunity for residents to recycle. Enchelmayer said former Mayor Hubert Brodell and current Sanitation Director Royce Leonard developed the program.

Enchelmayer, however, fine-tuned and expanded the effort to include six out of 10 cities in Craighead County. He found a way to make it work.

“His vision, his willingness to think outside the box, his approach to the whole thing made the difference in Craighead County taking a leadership role in the state and region with a successful blue bag recycling program,” said Sam Hummelstein, president of Hummelstein Recycling.

“The program wouldn’t be here today without him. It wouldn’t have survived.”
Enchelmayer said the expansion began with a simple request from Bay High School for a trailer to assist with their ongoing, very successful recycling program.

“The Craighead County Solid Waste District (CCSWD) board approved the request, and over the next three years trailers were placed in five additional cities,” he said. “These cities were drop off sites and participation was limited. However, Mayor Duncan of Bono agreed to implement a curbside collection for blue bags if the district would provide a small truck for that purpose. Brookland, Lake City, Caraway and Bay followed the same plan and we now have six cities in Craighead County with curbside service.”

The CCSWD provides participating cities with pickup trucks, trailers and blue bags utilizing funds from the ADEQ Recycling Grants Program. The cities provide the labor and fuel as a match for the grants.

It is clear that Enchelmayer loved the last stage of his career. He talks about trash with enthusiasm.

“My wife would say, ‘Why are you going out there on Saturday morning?’ But I couldn’t wait to get out there. I felt like I was part of a mission — a purpose.”
Now, Enchelmayer and his wife of 38 years, Jimmie Sue, spend their spare time with family.

“Basically, we focus on our grandkids,” he said with a twinkle in his blue eyes. “I feel like I am where I’ve always planned to be.”