|Top Photo, Left to right: Jane and John Bolanos (John is president of Univar); Doug and Sharon Ashbridge (Doug is former president of Southern Mill Creek Products); and Jim Delaney, Univar regional director.
Bottom Photo: The Ashbridge and Scherzinger families have been close friends for many years. Left to right: Kurt Scherzinger, Alicia Scherzinger, Sharon Ashbridge, Barbara Scherzinger, Doug Ashbridge, Steve Scherzinger, Rachel Dickenson, Eric Scherzinger and Dawn Ashbridge Thorne.
CINCINNATI, OHIO – More than 50 friends, family members and colleagues recently traveled to southeastern Ohio to bid a fond farewell to a respected member of the pest management industry, Doug Ashbridge, former president of Southern Mill Creek Products (SMCP). The Midwest distributor was purchased by Univar Environmental Sciences in 2010.
A number of Univar executives and product suppliers were on hand to honor the longtime industry executive. Following a cocktail reception and dinner at the historic Montgomery Inn, Univar Regional Director Jim Delaney shared some of Ashbridge’s personal history. Ashbridge was born and raised in Ohio and attended Bowling Green State University, where he earned a dual degree in biology and communications. A talented athlete, Ashbridge also played guard on the football team, lettering in 1967-68.
Upon graduating from college, Ashbridge worked as an air traffic controller until being terminated during the contentious PATCO strike of 1981 when President Ronald Reagan invoked the Taft-Hartley Act and more than 11,000 air traffic controllers lost their jobs. His career at a crossroads and in need of a paycheck to support his family, Ashbridge became a pharmaceutical sales representative before joining Velsicol Chemical Corporation in 1983, where he first met Delaney, who was working for Van Waters & Rogers (which later became Univar) at the time.
Delaney said, “Doug was always willing to give me the time of day” and “treated me like a gentleman.” When Velsicol Chemical fell on hard times following federal regulatory action against its flagship chemical chlordane, Ashbridge joined Tom Evans, another former Velsicol executive, at Southern Mill Creek Products, where he served as sales manager before being promoted to vice president and ultimately president.
Although Delaney and Ashbridge competed head-to-head, “he always acted professionally,” Delaney said. “I highly respected SMCP and Doug Ashbridge. We were blessed to have him as a competitor. He kept us on our toes.”
And when Univar Environmental Sciences purchased SMCP in 2010, Delaney and Univar President John Bolanos recognized that “Doug’s leadership, commitment and support of the SMCP staff were keys to the success of the company,” Delaney said, requiring a personal commitment “to look after the people of SMCP” during the integration process. Ashbridge said the company is in good hands, so the time was right to step away from the business.
Following dinner, a number of Ashbridge’s industry colleagues paid tribute to their friend, including former NPMA President Steve Scherzinger, who thanked Ashbridge for the role he played in sharing his love of the pest management industry with his two sons, Kurt and Eric. “He’s been such an inspiration to both of us,” Eric Scherzinger said.
Jim Vaive, president of Varment Guard Environmental Services, said Ashbridge was an early supporter of his company “from the moment we started,” despite being a relatively modest organization in those early years. “He’s always been a selfless servant to everyone that he has known.”
Bolanos said he knew it was essential that Univar retain the services of Ashbridge when SMCP was purchased by Univar several years ago. So, Bolanos was a bit apprehensive when the two longtime competitors met in Columbus, Ohio, shortly after the sale. “I knew this could go very well or this could go very badly,” he observed.
Bolanos needn’t have worried, however. When Ashbridge walked through the door, he extended his hand and said, “John, I guess we’re going to be working together now!” From that day forward, Bolanos said, he knew that the integration process would go fine, as the two men crisscrossed several states visiting various SMCP branch offices.
“You get to know a person really well when you spend a lot of time with them in the car,” Bolanos said, “and the key to the success of the integration of SMCP with Univar was the very selfless attitude of this man,” pointing to Ashbridge. “That’s character. That’s integrity. That’s Doug.”
As Ashbridge rose to share his final thoughts on the evening, those in attendance gave him a standing ovation. He thanked his friends and family for their support, including daughters Dawn Thorne and Heather Trammell, along with his son-in-law Kevin Trammell and his three grandchildren, Devin, Brett and Brooke. His parents, Richard and Martha Ashbridge, had planned to attend, but were unable to because of illness, although Ashbridge said they were there in spirit.
“It’s a privilege to stand in front of my friends and family tonight and say goodbye,” he said. “Everyone here means an awful lot to me. I won’t remember profits and sales. I’m going to remember the people in this room.”
But he held the most moving comments of the evening for his wife of 41 years, Sharon. “She’s the love of my life,” he said. “She’s my best friend and she’s always been there for me. She’s always stood by me.”
And with that, Doug Ashbridge said goodbye to the pest management industry, welcoming the next chapter of his life with open arms. – Dan Moreland