Lee Jurek, the new president of ISRI’s Northern Ohio Chapter, was born into the family business, ACE Roll Off Trailer & Lugger Hoists, but he didn’t always have ambitions of following that path. In this edition of Faces of ISRI, Jurek discusses his background and what led him back to the company, his journey to becoming president of the Northern Ohio Chapter, and the lessons he’s learned in his various leadership roles.
Tell me about your background and how you ended up working in the recycling industry.
I’m the fourth generation of my family business, ACE Roll Off Trailer & Lugger Hoists. My great grandfather, Walter Jurek, founded the business in Cleveland in 1938. I initially didn’t have the desire to work for the company, so I started my career working for a few other companies. Around the age of 23, my family called and asked me to help run the business. I was working for these giant corporations where it would take 10 to 15 years to move up the ladder, but I was able to come here and get to the same point a lot quicker. It really was perfect timing and provided more experience. My 10-year anniversary working here will be Saturday, May 14, and I’m glad I decided to come back.
What was your introduction to ISRI, and how did you get involved with the Northern Ohio Chapter?
Our company has been an ISRI member for more than 20 years. Many of our fellow members use our products in their operations across North America, whether it’s roll-off trailers, lugger trucks and trailers, or anything else that helps them haul their recyclable materials from point A to point B. One of the biggest benefits of being an ISRI member is the networking, so joining was a no brainer.
I got involved with the Northern Ohio Chapter thanks to [former chapter presidents] Andy Golding and Mary Hlepas. They both asked me to join the chapter and become a board member, so I did. I was on the board for about nine months before I became the vice president of the chapter, and less than two years later, I was chapter president. It’s been a lot to pick up in a short time span, but it’s been a great learning experience.
How has your career prepared you for this new journey as chapter president?
As the owner of a business, a lot of what I do is directing people, and that’s what I’m doing now as chapter president. I’ve created different committees and match people to those committees based off their respective expertise. If I did everything, nothing would ever get done. Establishing these committees makes everyone’s lives easier, and ultimately, it’ll help the next chapter president after me.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself from the various leadership roles you’ve held?
I used to be terrible at public speaking. It was something I dreaded doing. I’d get unbelievably nervous and spend 15 to 20 minutes ahead of time just trying to figure out my mannerisms and how I was going to conduct myself in front of an audience. Being in leadership positions has helped because I have to give weekly reports at my company’s production meetings in front of 30 people. When I talk, I must make sure what I’m saying resonates with them so that they buy in to the message. Now, after being thrown to the fire as ISRI Northern Ohio Chapter President, this issue of talking to a group of people is no longer an issue.
Being a leader has also humbled me. I’ve learned that in my business especially, just because someone doesn’t have my last name and isn’t part of the family or doesn’t have a high-ranking position within the company doesn’t make them or their input any less valuable. Their thoughts and opinions are still very important.
What are you hoping to accomplish during your tenure as chapter president?
I want our chapter to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible; having the committees in place should help with that. You really want the subject matter experts to work within their areas of expertise. Take catalytic converter theft issues: this is an issue that doesn’t impact me or my business. I don’t know the questions to ask. I’ve delegated someone who is impacted by this issue to work on it. I want the committees to get off the ground and take on a life of their own because it’ll make things easier for everyone. Being the figurehead, you know about the big items, but not all the intricacies of every single topic, so that’s when you lean on other people to help.
After your tenure as chapter president, do you hope to transition to ISRI leadership?
I think so. I think I’d like to do more work on the convention. As an equipment provider, I’d also like to be on the equipment and service providers council and safe operations council.
When you’re not working or engaged in ISRI-related activities, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m a huge car guy. I’m currently rebuilding my grandfather’s 1967 Mercedes SL. I’m about 400 hours into a 1200-hour project. As the vice president of sales for my company, I spend most of my day sitting behind a computer, which is fine, but I love working with my hands, so that’s a hobby I’ve picked up.
I also do a lot of skiing and fly fishing, and I make my own beer. I’ll have to share some with everyone at ISRI2023 in Nashville.
Photos courtesy of Lee Jurek.