[2011 Residential Technician of the Year] Hulett Environmental Services' Gail Wiles

Features - Technician of the Year Awards

A leader at work, and in the community

April 30, 2012
Donna DeFranco

She climbed the ranks at Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) to become one of the itinerant safety officers for 13 power plants. She scored among the top five graduates in the history of the FPL apprentice program and earned her certification as a journeyman mechanic – something very few women had even attempted to accomplish. When she decided to switch careers and give pest management a try, she quickly became the knowledgeable, friendly, reliable, certified PMP customers clamored for.

But for all of these outstanding career achievements, Gail Wiles, a residential technician at Hulett Environmental Services in West Palm Beach, Fla., takes the most pride in her community-related achievements – the difference she makes every day in the lives of children, families and pets in the underserved neighborhoods of South Florida.

“When you hand a bag of groceries to a mom with tears of gratitude in her eyes because she knows her children will eat tonight, it’s a feeling like no other,” says Wiles, who has been involved helping more than 30 charitable organizations over the past 13 years. Road captain of the Harley-Davidson of Palm Beach Harley Owners Group (HOG) for six years and director of the Ladies of Harley for seven, Wiles rallies group members and the community to get involved in organizations like Adopt-A-Family, Jump Start Children’s Services, Hospice of Palm Beach County and A Second Chance Puppies & Kittens Rescue. Under her leadership, Ladies of Harley and HOG earned the Outstanding Philanthropic Organization Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

“I’m proud of my professional accomplishments,” says Wiles, “but my deepest satisfaction comes from seeing the smiles of children whose holiday wishes just came true and parents who see that people really do care and are willing to help.”

How Giving Changes Lives

Gail Wiles’ proclivity for giving back was established early in life as she watched her parents and others in the neighborhoods where they lived taking food to the sick and supporting one another through any type of hardship that might arise.

“Before taking a more permanent post at NASA, my dad worked for the civil service, so I’ve lived in a lot of places — North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Montana, Alabama and now Florida — and I can tell you that giving back is important no matter where you live,” Wiles says. “Early in my life, when I was growing up in Montana, I got involved helping the children who attended Montana School for the Deaf & Blind. Today, I help with a number of causes.

“When I joined the Harley Club after moving to Florida, my volunteering efforts began snowballing and I felt complete inside. My work has helped me achieve a sense of belonging within my community that I could not have otherwise achieved. I feel so blessed to be able to help others. It’s important for people to understand that anyone, from any walk of life, can be a volunteer. It’s so easy to make a positive difference in the world.”

Wiles says she is endlessly proud of her Southern upbringing and her family, which includes her late father, who served in the Navy, as well as with NASA; her mother, who grew up on the North Carolina farm her family has owned since the 1600s; a brother who is a Florida state trooper and Navy Vietnam veteran; a brother who is a deputy sheriff and former Marine; and a late brother, who also served in the Marines and with the space program. It’s a family with a remarkable commitment to serving others.

On-the-Job Philanthropy. Wiles’ commitment to her community carries over to her role with Hulett. She is unquestionably a people person and shares that her favorite part of the job is her daily interaction with customers in the urban neighborhoods she serves. “I work hard to earn the trust of my customers,” she says. “When they compliment my work or ask how the motorcycle club is going, it makes me feel even more connected to my community. I really care about the people whose homes I service.”

“For Gail, it’s clearly about more than just doing pest control; it’s about becoming one of the family with her customers,” says Hulett General Manager Jim Triplett. “Customers want relationships with individuals who provide them a service; they want a sense of safety and security with the people they invite into their homes. Gail does an outstanding job with this.”

Stories about Wiles’ going above and beyond for her customers abound. In one situation, she made breakfast for a physically challenged customer whose caregiver was late in arriving. “She’s been my customer for several years, so when she told me she had a headache from not eating, I didn’t hesitate to lend a hand. That small gesture seemed to make her day, and seeing her joy and relief definitely made mine.”

Teacher, Teammate and Advisor. In her nearly eight years with Hulett and 10 in the industry, Wiles has seen plenty of change – most notably the strong movement toward IPM solutions and the specialization of treatments to manage emerging species.

“Hulett has had a strong IPM focus all along,” she says of the company that established a precursor to today’s IPM programs as far back as the mid-’90s. “They made sure I got the training to become GreenPro certified right away. In addition, when I joined the staff, my colleagues didn’t hesitate to provide support and mentoring, helping me acquire knowledge quickly. Today, I strive to repay that kindness by mentoring new employees – taking them on the route with me so they can see the various methods and treatments we use firsthand.”

As her tenure continues to grow, Wiles is amazed by the increasing need for specialized treatments. “In Florida today, we face many types of ants, roaches, spiders and other insects,” she says. “Who would have thought a decade ago that you would have to customize your treatment to a specific type of ant?”

When challenges of new species – or challenges of any kind – pop up, Wiles has confidence that her team will help her get to the root cause of the issue and develop an appropriate solution. “I’m a firm believer that two heads are better than one,” she says. “Asking my supervisors for help not only offers me that added brain power but also helps me become more observant and hone my problem-solving skills.”

What’s her ultimate goal with customers? To satisfy and educate. “Customers feel great when you resolve their issues,” Wiles concludes. “And when you go the extra step of educating them about how to prevent future trouble spots, you really seal the relationship. I strive to build long-term relationships in every home I visit.”

The author is a contributing writer for PCT and can be contacted at ddefranco@giemedia.com.