NWRA announces inductees to Hall of Fame

NWRA announces inductees to Hall of Fame

These five members have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to the waste industry.


The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), Arlington, Virginia, announced the inductees to its 2019 Hall of Fame. They are Clean Energy Vice President of Solid Waste Ray Burke, Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) Senior Vice President/Managing Director Paul Mitchener, Waste Industries CEO and Chairman Ven Poole, Advanced Disposal COO John Spegal, and retired Republic Services Senior Vice President Jim VanWeelden.

The hall inductees were chosen by the NWRA board of trustees from a list of distinguished finalists submitted by the NWRA awards committee.

“We had many well-qualified nominees this year, and that is a testament to the men and women in our industry. The NWRA board of trustees did not have an easy assignment. I congratulate our 2019 inductees on their achievement,” NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith says.

These industry leaders were selected based on scores in five categories, including recognition in the industry as a founder, pioneer, visionary or icon; enduring legacy and impact of contributions to the industry for a minimum of 25 years; steadfast values such as integrity, respect, courage, mentorship, volunteerism and inclusiveness; inspirational leadership as a service provider or supplier, or on issues important to the association; and active industry engagement and indisputable reputation as an ambassador of the industry.

“This was a challenging task. We had so many incredible candidates to choose from. All who are dedicated to our industry and have given so much of themselves to it. These five that we selected represent the very best in our industry. I offer my sincerest congratulations on their selection to the 2019 Hall of Fame,” says Ben Harvey, chairman of the NWRA board of trustees.

The hall inductees will be officially recognized at WasteExpo 2019 during the awards breakfast on May 7.

About the inductees

Ray Burke: Burke is the vice president of solid waste at Clean Energy, Costa Mesa, California, and a member of the board of directors of Clean Energy Renewal Fuels. Burke also co-founded the Garbageman Invitational Charity Golf Tournament. Burke has been a leader in the expansion of natural gas in the waste and recycling industry. In the 1990s, Ray installed the first natural gas fueling station in the country. Burke and his family actively support several charitable organizations in their community notably the Alzheimer’s Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

Paul Mitchener: Mitchener is the senior vice president and managing director of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA) Inc, New York City. Mitchener has been active and supportive of the NWRA safety committee and ANSI committees. For almost 40 years, he has been an innovative leader, supporting the next generation of industry leaders. Mitchener started in the industry in 1982 in the United Kingdom and since then has worked on projects or managed operations in over 50 countries.

Ven Poole: Poole is the chairman and CEO of Waste Industries, Raleigh, North Carolina. Poole joined Waste Industries for the first time at age 12 painting dumpsters and washing trucks. He returned to Waste Industries in 1990 as the risk management director after working in the aerospace industry as an engineer. From 2001 to 2009, he helped lead the acquisition of 150 companies as vice president of corporate development. Poole also co-founded the Waste Industries Full Circle Project, a charitable giving effort through which Waste Industries engages in its corporate philanthropy efforts. 

John Spegal: Spegal is the COO at Advanced Disposal, Ponte Vedra, Florida,. He is a recognized leader in the industry by his peers, personally engaging in many important industry initiatives. Spegal currently serves on the NWRA board of trustees and has been actively involved in industrywide issues that impact the association and the entire industry. In the mid-1990s, Spegal was instrumental in the development of a strategy for the privatization of one of the largest cities in North Carolina, which has become a model for the industry. Spegal is also a leader in his community, founding and supporting literacy programs for solid waste drivers and volunteering with local organizations, like the Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity, and K9s for Warriors.

Jim VanWeelden: VanWeelden retired this year from Republic Services, Phoenix, as senior vice president. He is considered one of the architects of the modern waste disposal business, entering the industry at a young age helping his father with the family disposal business. He was the original champion for being a good neighbor, according to the NWRA, as it was important for landfill operators to be responsible members of the community. VanWeelden was active in his community, dedicating time to the Boys Club, coaching AAU basketball teams, and being actively involved in his church.