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Rogue’s own Garry Penning inducted into the ORRA Hall of Fame

He’s been a leader in the solid waste industry for well over 30 years. He’s the model definition of a volunteer’s volunteer, serving in roles that have benefitted state and local solid waste concerns. He’s also an excellent gardener and collects antique farm equipment. And in September of 2023, he was inducted into the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Association’s (ORRA) Hall of Fame. Congratulations on this massive honor go to Garry Penning, Director of Governmental Affairs at Rogue Waste, Inc.

A long and prestigious career

In 1990, Garry got his start working as a general manager trainee for a large, national waste company at their site in Kennewick, Washington. Three years later, he became the general manager for their Portland-Vancouver operations, where he remained until 1999.

That same year, Garry was hired as the general manger of Grants Pass Sanitation. While the corporate ownership transitioned, Garry stayed on until 2007, when he went to work for Rogue Waste, Inc, filling roles in both governmental affairs and marketing. And he’s been here ever since.

Leading the charge at ORRA

Founded in 1965, the Oregon Refuse and Recycling Organization (ORRA) is a 200-member voluntary association of solid waste management companies and other businesses to advance the efficiencies of collecting and processing recyclables and solid waste. ORRA provides legislative advocacy, education, shared insights and more to its members, and is a member of the West Coast Refuse and Recycling Coalition (WCRRC), a regional association formed by ORRA and its counterparts in Washington and California.

According to Kristan Mitchell, Executive Director and CEO at ORRA, trade associations like this depend very heavily on the volunteer work of their members. “When you find people who have all the right skills,” she says, “you rely on them even more. Garry is, and has always been, one of those people. He is knowledgeable about the operational and long-term strategy issues facing our industry, he thinks of the ‘bigger picture’ in how those issues may affect his community and other Oregon towns, and he is an outstanding communicator and advocate for doing things right — both professionally and in his personal life.”

Garry receiving his award

Kristan went on to discuss a few of Garry’s volunteer roles that not only benefitted ORRA, but also the rest of the state in issues relating to solid waste. Well before meetings happened electronically, for example, Garry made regular trips from southern Oregon to Salem to participate in ORRA’s monthly meetings, as well as for more frequent Governmental Affairs Committee meetings, which he chaired for a number of years. “He could always be depended on to articulate the perspective of citizens and companies working outside the Willamette Valley, both to ORRA members and to elected officials. He traveled regularly to Salem to testify on behalf of ORRA on many legislative issues over the years. His knack for building and maintaining relationships with elected officials and staff was legendary.”

But that’s just the beginning. Before Garry worked at Rogue, he started serving on the ORRA Board as an alternate for member Don Cordell, who was working for Rogue Waste. Later on, Garry was elected by his peers to ORRA’s Board of Directors, where he made the time to attend quarterly Board meetings for many years.

He was elected by the Board of Directors as an officer of ORRA, serving first as Vice President, President and Past President, which totaled a six-year commitment. After he moved through those roles, he was elected to Treasurer in 2021, then re-elected into that same role until he chose not to run again for the Board in 2022.

As Kristan explains, Garry’s Board roles were just part of the story. “For many years, he was tapped to represent ORRA on numerous advisory committees and task forces organized by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, including work on a wide range of topics impacting our industry and our communities — including environmental and transportation policy, waste and recycling-related rulemaking, and most recently, radioactive waste rule changes.

A special honor for a special man

So how does one get inducted into the ORRA Hall of Fame? Simply put, it’s a big deal – and an even bigger honor. According to Kristan Mitchell, the three past ORRA presidents have the privilege of deciding whether to induct honorees into their Hall of Fame. The inductees, if any, are then announced at each year’s Fall Convention banquet. At this year’s ceremony, both Stephen Gambee (former CEO of Rogue Waste, Inc.) and Ron Middelstaedt, CEO of Waste Connections, were in attendance.

Fred Penning (Garry's brother) Garry Penning and Ron Middlestaedt (CEO of Waste Connections)

“The Hall of Fame is made up of people who have played an important role in the strength and continuity of ORRA. The Hall of Fame Committee makes the decision whether to induct someone, and there’s no requirement to induct someone every year,” Kristan notes. Those inducted into the Hall of Fame include members who are still active and working in solid waste businesses, as well as those who are closer to retirement and those who have passed on. And now the roll-call in this esteemed honor has grown by one to include Garry Penning.

Garry’s volunteering beyond ORRA

While Garry has been dedicated to his time at ORRA for over two decades, community volunteer work has also been an important part of Garry’s life. Over the years, he has been an active member of the Rotary Club, as well as a board member of Head Start in Clackamas County, a board member of the Troutdale Chamber of Commerce, and a board member for the Boys & Girls Club of the Rogue Valley.

What’s more, Garry served as a board member, and for a time as Chair, of the Grants Pass School District — from 2004 to 2019. He currently serves on the Medford Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee and has done so since 2007.

In his spare time, Garry likes to fish, raise cattle, collect antique farm equipment and go camping. He’s also a green-thumb gardener, and according to Kristan, the ORRA staff has enjoyed many a fresh vegetable from “Farmer Garry” over the years. As a side note, Garry once jokingly told Kristan that another hobby he enjoys is “annoying people, especially Kristan!”

Celebrating an honor well deserved

As a company and as a community, we are fortunate to have Garry Penning doing the important work he does so well. He’s a true industry heavy-hitter and it’s an honor to be able to celebrate his many accomplishments with ORRA, as well as his time with us at Rogue Waste, Inc. Congratulations and thank you for all you do, Garry. And even though you’re now an official Hall of Famer, you still need to show up for your day job!

Garry and his proud family!

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