When it comes to dispensing valuable life lessons, few people are as good at it as Bob Dold, Jr.’s mother, Judy, but that doesn’t mean he always listened.
“My mother told me when I a young boy never to ask someone for money and not to talk about myself,” says Dold. “When I ran for Congress I went totally against her advice.”
Judy Dold readily forgave her son when he won the hotly contested Illinois 10th Congressional District seat in November 2010, becoming a valuable ally of the pest management industry on a national level.
For the easy-going and charismatic Dold, 44, the son of longtime pest management industry icons Bob and Judy Dold of Rose Pest Solutions in Chicago, the call to serve was a lesson learned and cultivated from his exposure to the pest management industry.
“I grew up in the pest control industry, it literally is my extended family,” recalls Dold. “We would have vacations around various industry meetings and there was always someone coming over for dinner at our house.”
Dold recalls friends of his parents such as Norm Cooper, Hal Stein, Bill Spitz and Norm Ehmann were familiar faces and a positive influence on him and his three siblings.
“My family is my rock and the examples my parents set for me and my sisters has been a gift,” says Dold. “They told us, ‘Your integrity sets your identity’ and that has been an easy example to follow throughout my career.”
Dold’s parents, who both served as president of the National Pest Management Association (Bob, Sr. “The Chief” in 1983-84 and Judy in 2001-02) give unselfishly back to the pest management industry and thoroughly enjoy the people, a trait Bob, Jr. has fully embraced.
“This industry couldn’t be more welcoming and I have had the good fortune of being exposed to many terrific mentors,” says Dold. “No matter where you go in the country there is a friendly face — there is no industry like it.”
Entering the family business was not something forced upon him; it was something he aspired to from an early age.
“My role model is my dad and if he did something I wanted to do it as well,” says Dold, a three-sport athlete at New Trier High School in suburban Chicago. “Whenever I have reached a crossroads in my life, I would try and emulate how my dad would handle it.”
Dold’s respect for his father took him to Denison University in Granville, Ohio — his father’s alma mater — where he earned a bachelor’s degree. Dold followed that with a law degree from Indiana University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
“I was looking for as many experiences as possible but I always knew eventually I would be back in Chicago at some point working in the business,” Dold said. “My dad was my hero and I wanted to come back and emulate what he had done.”
Taking the Leap. Dold got a taste of the political scene early on when he served as a college intern in then Vice President Dan Quayle’s office. Working on the vice president’s advance team, Dold toured the world helping arrange events, and working with the media and host committee.
It was during this time that he applied some of the lessons learned from his parents when it came to managing expectations and working toward a common goal.
“We always had a message of the day to relay and in politics getting that message heard requires having people adopt and recognize your idea,” Dold said. “It didn’t matter who got the credit for getting the message across, just that it did.”
Dold also clerked for a New York state judge and served as an investigative counsel for the Republican-led House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
His early experiences exposed Dold to the unbridled power that Congress possessed, and why the need for checks and balances and transparency is so vital to its success.
Fast forward to 2009 and Dold announced his candidacy for the 10th District seat to a gathering of — you guessed it — pest management professionals during a meeting in San Francisco.
What motivated this father of three and Boy Scout troop leader to decide to jump into the middle of the contentious national political arena? Dold says his desire to run was both emotional and practical. The emotional side came from his experiences running Rose Pest Solutions with his parents and the fact that government was making it harder and harder to open the doors every day.
“I was frustrated that many of our representatives did not understand what it took to set a budget, make a payroll every week or hire a staff,” says Dold. “Plus the amount of spending that was taking place was out of control.”
The practical side came from Dold’s political mentor Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) who held the 10th District seat for five terms before winning election to the Senate. Kirk was Dold’s representative and Dold often went to him to voice his concerns as a small business owner.
The advice Kirk gave to Dold? “He told me it was the time to step up or stop complaining,” recalls Dold.
Dold entered the Republican primary as one of five candidates seeking Kirk’s seat and he was not viewed by voters or the political establishment as the favorite in a formidable field. “We worked hard to get our message and vision out to voters in the primary and general election,” says Dold. “No one told me I wasn’t supposed to win.”
The campaign trail opened Dold’s eyes to the harsh reality of today’s somewhat caustic and hostile political landscape but he again drew on the lessons his parents and family imparted to him.
“You have to keep your cool and balance, even when people are reacting to you or saying things that are not true,” says Dold. “You have to stick to your core beliefs and listen.”
With endorsements from the Chicago Tribune, a host of business groups and the support of his family, Dold won a close election and was on his way to Washington.
If the Three Musketeers lived in Chicago they would get a run for their money from the Dold family. The mantra of “All for one and one for all” is as familiar to Bob Dold, Jr. and his siblings as cheering for Chicago Bears, Cubs or Blackhawks.
“Nothing is more important than family and they have blessed me with a huge support system,” says Dold. “They have been my biggest advocates and were a terrific help during the campaign. It was special to know that they were there to tell me the truth and not just what I wanted to hear.”
Dold’s wife, Danielle, and their children, Harper, Bobby and Honor, keep him running between sporting contests, dance recitals and Scout meetings but it is a kind of busy Dold enjoys thoroughly.
“It is what Danielle and I have both known our entire lives,” says Dold of the importance of family and being together. “We enjoy doing things as a family and share in each other’s success and are there to support one another through the tough times.”
Mother Judy echoes her son’s strong feelings on family and how it kept them going through the long campaign.
“The family as a whole could not have been more supportive of Bob’s pursuits,” says Judy. “That combined with his faith and deep commitment to the Boy Scouts give him the energy he feeds off.”
“Election night was quite a rush and the thrill of representing my home district, as well as the pest management industry, was something special,” he says.
Dold’s family shared in his achievement and was ecstatic on that November night in 2010. “We couldn’t have been happier for him that evening” says mom Judy. “It is a privilege to be able to serve your country in the capacity Bob did.”
Judy says her and husband, Bob, Sr., would often split up on the campaign trail and attend different events to help cast a wider net. She recalls with a laugh the surprised looks she received when people would ask how she knew the candidate and her response was, “I’m his mom!”
Welcome To Washington. When Dold arrived in the nation’s capital in January 2011 he found himself, like many freshman Congressmen, working hard to adjust and get his bearings.
“I spent the first six months in awe of Congress wondering how I got there and the rest of the time wondering how some of the other representatives got there,” quips Dold.
Dold found out that Congress does not work like a normal business and that it is slow by design. His expectations were high but he discovered that you can’t change the Beltway dynamic overnight or with a single vote.
The constant state of partisan politics has voters and elected officials frustrated but Dold sees himself as a proponent of working across the aisle and as someone who would listen. “In the business world a deal has to benefit both sides or there won’t be a deal,” says Dold. “It is the same in politics and in order to move the needle both sides have to work together.”
During his term Dold was the first freshman Congressman to have a bill passed and signed into law and he was willing to step out and support legislation that sought a balanced budget.
Dold was also a strong advocate for the pest management industry and worked closely with the National Pest Management Association’s Bob Rosenberg and Gene Harrington on advancing and protecting the industry’s interests.
“Bob was a champion for the industry and his presence in Congress was a real asset,” says Rosenberg, the NPMA’s longtime lobbyist and current executive vice president of the association. “His is an old-school approach and is all about doing the right thing for the greater good. He is not partisan or parochial, and that is hard to find these days.”
Longtime friend and fellow industry professional Mike Rottler, president of Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions in St. Louis, says he knew the younger Dold was passionate about politics and that the qualities Dold learned in business have served him well. “He is inquisitive and truly cares about how people arrive at a decision,” says Rottler. “He has no agenda and is open minded to all viewpoints.”
Rottler says Dold provides a small business owner’s perspective and truly understands the value small businesses mean to the United States’ economy. “He asks the right questions and knows the best answer is not always the easiest or first one,” says Rottler. “He is driven to finding the right answer.”
Dold says the challenge the pest management industry faces in the halls of Congress, in state legislatures and town councils is that most elected officials, through no fault of their own, don’t know what the industry does on a daily basis. “I have encouraged the EPA to come see what our industry does and how it operates,” says Dold. “The industry has a good story to tell about the vital role it plays in protecting the public’s health.”
Lessons Learned. Politics is a fickle partner. You can ride the wave of change into office one year only to be swept out the next election by forces beyond your control.
In the fall of 2012 following the redistricting of the Illinois 10th District Dold lost his re-election bid by less than 3,000 votes.
Undaunted and steadfast in the belief that he can make a difference in Congress Dold announced in May that he will run to recapture the seat in 2014. “Running again is a sacrifice on the business and my family but I firmly believe this industry’s and this country’s best days are ahead,” says Dold. “At the end of the day people are looking for Congress to work together to overcome the roadblocks and get stuff done. I look forward to being part of that process.”
While her feelings are obviously colored with a mother’s pride, Judy Dold says Congress is where her son needs to be.
“He loves interacting with and listening to people, and finding a common ground,” says Dold. “He is a very ‘real’ person and that is what attracts people to him.”