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On the Job with Dale Richter

Dale Richter shows off his prized collection of vintage tools used in the roofing business that his father started many years ago. Richter continues to operate the business today. (Danny Carter)

Dale Richter shows off his prized collection of vintage tools used in the roofing business that his father started many years ago. Richter continues to operate the business today. (Danny Carter)

ALBANY -- When Dale Richter is asked what he does to stay busy, it takes him a little longer to go down the list than most people.

He operates a roofing business in Albany and is owner of a stinging insect removal and extermination service in South Georgia. But he’s also a volunteer basketball coach at Deerfield-Windsor School, a member of local rescue and dive teams and a media consultant for several news organizations on beekeeping and Operation Migration events to conserve the whooping crane population.

And that just part of the list. Read further to find out more about the Albany businessman and church leader as he shared a question-and-answer session with Danny Carter.

THE RICHTER FILE

NAME: Dale Richter

AGE: 56

POSITION: Owner and operator of Bees-B-Gone and Dale Richter Roofing. Bees-B-Gone is a stinging insect (honey bee, yellow jacket, hornet, etc) removal and extermination service based in Albany and serving South Georgia.

FAMILY: His wife, Karen, is a Realtor with Re/Max of Albany. One son, Travis, 31, is a recording artist, producer and commercial model currently working in Los Angeles. Taylor, 15, is involved at Deerfield Windsor School and church and is completing his requirements for an Eagle Scout badge.

EDUCATION: Richter attended the University of Georgia majoring in agricultural economics and entomology. He has a Master Beekeeper distinction from the University of Georgia/Young Harris College Beekeeping Institute.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: Richter is chairman of the board of Operation Migration, an international organization serving to reintroduce and conserve the whooping crane population in the United States. He has been a volunteer and director for Operation Migration for the past 12 years, acting as a ground and air crew member for the group as they fly with whooping cranes through the Southeast.

MEDIA: Richter is a media consultant for numerous news organizations on beekeeping and Operation Migration events. He’s been featured on America Now, CNBC, the History Channel, The London Times, Georgia Public Radio and various other news outlets.

ACTIVITIES: He’s chairman of the Trustee Board of First Free Will Baptist Church of Albany and head of security for the church. Richter is a member of the Search and Rescue Team in Dougherty County and the Lee County CERT team and Dive Team. During basketball season, he’s an assistant coach for the DWS girls junior varsity and statistician for the varsity boys and girls.

Q. What was your first job?

A. My first job was selling honey produced by my grandfather. I rode door-to-door on my bicycle selling to neighbors within a five-mile area. I think I received about a nickel for each jar I sold. My Dad was a roof contractor, so I started working with him when I was about 8. We roofed during the day and installed hardwood floors at night, after schoolwork was done. My first “outside the family” job was working at what was then Albany Junior College in the bookstore while I was a student there.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. Probably a basketball or some type of sports equipment when I was six or seven. Our neighborhood gathered at my house and played basketball, baseball, or football every day, almost year around. We always need sports toys. Later, I bought a Sears Craftsman 10” table saw for my work shop when I was 11. I still use that saw today for basic wood cutting jobs. When I graduated high school, I bought a brand new Buick Regal and, to my parents’ dismay, a motorcycle. Both served me well in my college years.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. My grandfather raised honey bees and I started working with him when I was five, and have enjoyed it ever since then. The bee removal and extermination business is a more recent endeavor brought on by requests from various officials with the State of Georgia for help in that field. My father owned a roofing company, and I continued to work with him during high school and college. I slowly took over the business when I returned to Albany from college. I think it was a sense of family tradition and independence from a standard 8-5 job.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Outside of my family, I think Ms. Verna Hambley from the AJC bookstore probably taught me more about handling people and respect for hard work than anyone else. Dr. Al Dietz, with the University of Georgia, was a great professor and scientist, but an extremely difficult person to work for. He taught me persistence, and what little patience that I may now have. I also have great respect for almost any coach I have ever played for or worked beside. In my early sports years, I was a player/student of Paul Eames and always tried to make sure I never disappointed him in any manner. He was a tremendous coach and positive thinking person.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the economic downturn?

A. I think many people inadvertently started sacrificing quality of work for perceived value of work due to economic reasons and in an effort to maintain status quo. Some of those decisions are now being reflected in additional costs for maintenance issues and upgrades. I, as an individual and as a business person, have never been a believer in the “lowest bidder” concept. I have always been told that “you get what you pay for” and I think the recession brought on a lot of issues where quality of product was waived for the cost of the project. That has eventually cost the taxpayers and homeowners of the United States millions of additional correction dollars.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. I am disgusted by automated, computer generated sales calls and emails. I usually get 25 or more each day, and they are just a huge interruption to my work schedule. I don’t answer most of them, but it is still a nuisance if I am on a roof or working on a honey bee removal and my phone rings with a non-solicited sales call.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. In the bee removal business, I use a thermal imaging camera to locate honey bees, yellow jackets, etc inside walls or other structures. My customers are usually shocked when they see what is lurking in their homes or offices. The roofing business has the standard tools of the trade, (hammer, ladder, etc) all of which are a necessity.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Each year, at the end of summer, we take our high school church youth group on a whitewater trip to Tennessee. We raft and then gather around in the upper part of the river to swim and climb the rocks. It is a great time to enjoy nature and create memories with the youth. Also, my wife’s birthday is always close to Thanksgiving, so that is a special time of year for me as well. As a part of Operation Migration, I spend a week in Wisconsin each September working with the crew and training/observing the Whooping Cranes. Viewing Wisconsin from the air in an ultralight aircraft in the early Fall is an amazing and breathtaking site.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I am currently reading “Wild Ones; A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America” by Jon Mooallem. Jon is an independent writer and contributor to the The New York Times, as well as other publications. Jon joined us for several weeks on migration with Operation Migration and is a great observer of both human and animal nature, and became a good acquaintance to myself and OM. I also read two to three newspapers online each day, and enjoy Mental Floss magazine.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. It depends on the day. If I have a bee removal scheduled, I leave by 5:30 or 6 to be on site and start the job as soon as daylight arrives. I usually try to check with the roofing crew by 6:30 or 7 and make sure everything is going smooth with them. Normally, whatever schedule I may have planned is completely changed by seven or eight for whatever reason arises. Usually it is weather related or an “emergency” extermination job may appear. I usually try to eat breakfast by 10 or 11.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. I have been very fortunate to meet several modern era famous people in many walks of life, either in the music and entertainment business, political arena, or conservation fields and I consider many of them good friends. Benjamin Franklin would be a historical figure that I would like to spend some time getting to know, simply for the great mind that he possessed. However, I would most like to have some time with my dad and grandfather, both of whom passed away several years ago. I would just like to have one more opportunity to tell them thanks for the values, morals, and work ethic that they instilled in me throughout my youth and young adult years.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I like gardening, nature, and exploring new areas. My favorite activity is the time that I spend assisting the basketball program at Deerfield Windsor, or shooting basketball with the youth at church. I enjoy teaching and coaching the younger players and watching them mature and develop into a better person and a better basketball player. The athletic staff at Deerfield are among the best I have ever seen and really work hard at encouraging and training their students, and are great mentors. The time that I spend volunteering with the Dougherty County Search and Rescue Team, the Lee County CERT team, and the Lee County dive team is also very rewarding, in many different ways.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I had a chance to buy a business in Blue Ridge, Ga., where I used to vacation a lot, and passed on it at the last minute. At the time, Blue Ridge was a sleepy mountain town. Now, that area has grown tremendously and I would like to have been a part of that growth.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Being able to attend most of my son’s activities at DWS and at church. He is involved in several functions, and I am able to attend many of them. Also, being able to set my schedule so that I have time to volunteer for church, school, or service events.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Always being subject to various weather patterns such as extreme heat, cold, or rain.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I have a friend who is a pilot for the Wisconsin DNR. She absolutely loves her job and we often share some of her stories and adventures, both comical and tragic. I would like to do something similar, or maybe work in wildlife biology. Youth work also would be an option.

Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…

A. I don’t think about retirement, just a transition from one phase of work/volunteer to another. I would like to travel a little more, and maybe own a small ranch in the mountains somewhere.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. Anything but rap! I grew up knowing and interacting with most of the original Bluegrass entertainers, so that is still a huge influence on my musical selections, along with Southern gospel. Right now, I have bluegrass, classical, piano, blues, Southern gospel and bagpipe/Celtic CD’s in the mix. My son is learning to play the bagpipes, so I seem to hear more of that right now.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I would hope to see a 180 degree turn in the trend we have followed in the last few years. I think everyone in the city and county should read Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent comments about the bankruptcy of Detroit. His comments on lack of solid leadership, self interest among authority figures, and the entitlement mentality of Detroit over the last several years could be applied to Albany today. Albany has been my home for over 50 years, and I would like to see it start to bring in businesses and communities that Columbus, Macon, and surrounding cities are now acquiring. I think we are starting to see a change for better leadership, and I pray that any new leadership would have the interests of the citizens in the forefront of their thought process.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. I have two favorite vacations. A few years ago my wife, younger son and I vacationed in the western United States with little or no agenda or time frame. It was time well spent and we enjoyed the area tremendously. Five years ago, my wife and I spent a couple of weeks in the New England area visiting historical sites and just seeing the countryside. Although it was November, the weather was hotter there than here in Albany at the time. But, that gave us the opportunity to see and visit places that ordinarily would have been closed or shut down due to weather.