[2013 Leadership Awards] Pat Copps

Features - 2013 Leadership Awards

From the Canadian Arctic to Saudi Arabia to California’s West Coast, Entomologist Pat Copps has contributed to the advancement of pest management since 1972.

October 23, 2013
PCT Magazine

While many in the industry have experience working with pests across the U.S., there are fewer who have such experience working throughout North America, and even fewer whose pest control careers have taken them around the globe. Having taken his expertise from various locales in Canada to the deserts of Saudi Arabia and finally to the beaches of California — all with a focus on pest management and applied entomology — Pat Copps’ leadership has impacted pest control professionals around the globe.

Copps became involved with entomology as a young child. “It’s one of those forever things,” Copps said. “At one point in the distant past, my father worked in entomology research in the Canadian Arctic.” Copps became interested in the subject after meeting an entomologist who needed help with a mosquito research project. At first, Copps decided to study geography and English; however, because of his background, he also was working part-time for an entomologist on vector control projects, focused on mosquitoes. While studying at the University of Manitoba in Manitoba, Canada, Copps also worked in landscaping, mosquito control and general vector control, which helped him win a scholarship for graduate school. By the time he finished at the University of Guelph in Ontario he had been at it for 10 years, and had attained B.A.s in geography and English, a B.S. in agriculture with a major in entomology, and a M.S. in entomology, with a thesis on applied mosquito research.

With such a range of experience, Copps was ready to start work in the pest control industry. “I walked into PCO Canada and literally said, ‘You need to hire me … here is how I can help,’” he recalls. Although the company president was most likely a bit taken aback by Copps’ brash demeanor, he was hired, and his true humble nature was quickly asserted when he asked to begin at the field level. Copps attained his licenses and certifications, ran a route and later performed in many different roles servicing customers — from residential to commercial, including fumigation, termite work and developing service plans for food processors.

Off to Saudi Arabia.
From Canada, Copps’ career next took him to Saudi Arabia. Copps had applied, and was hired, for a position with the Saudi-Aramco Oil Company as an entomologist and pest control supervisor in Saudi Arabia. “I worked there four and a half years — before, during and after the Gulf War,” Copps said. While there, he also assisted the U.S. military.

Copps enjoyed his time in Saudi Arabia, but when PRISM offered him an opportunity back in Canada on the West Coast in 1994, he felt he had to take it. “In Saudi Arabia, I worked with a great team and I was kind of sorry to leave, but it looked like a really good opportunity...and it was good, because it was where I met the beautiful gal who became my wife,” he said. However, within the year, he transitioned to a position in California. And, it is where he has now stayed for the last 18 years.

Although Copps may now be more settled in a single location than at any other time in his life, “settled” is not a word that most would use to describe him. Copps is an active industry leader, volunteer and association participant, he continues to work on research projects, climb trees and think about the treasure he buried on his island (stay tuned for more on this later).

“Pat is a great resource person in urban and industrial entomology for both the industry and its customers,” said Orkin Director of Quality Systems Zia Siddiqi, adding that Copps has been a great promoter of Orkin’s Gold Medal program for food processing facilities and assisted in finalizing the Associated Certified Entomologist (ACE) program with the Entomological Society of America (ESA).

Giving Back. Copps’ proudest moments in the industry, he said, are when he can give something back, introduce people to the business, and increase the public’s perception of the industry’s professionalism. He enjoys mentoring those within the industry and accepted the nomination to run for a position on the ESA Certification Board to help provide opportunity for those in the industry who want to advance in the profession.

Copps sees one of the industry’s greatest challenges as its limited ability to influence the public. “The perception of the industry is what activists present us to be,” he said, and unfortunately, “They don’t see us as professionals. For the most part, we do a good job as professionals, but we don’t get the recognition.” For that reason, Copps explained, “I take the opportunity to educate people whenever possible.”

Copps was humbled by his selection as a Crown Leadership Award winner, stating, “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this.” But when pressed, he said, “I see myself as a voice for the pest management industry. Another key part of leadership is to work as a mentor.”

Copps’ industry and personal contributions have not gone unrecognized. As stated by Laurie Jo Jensen, consulting entomologist for pest management professionals, “Pat is one of the most intelligent people that I have ever met. His knowledge is only eclipsed by his kindness and interest in helping others in both their professional and personal lives. I worked with Pat on the Board of Directors for the Pest Control Operators of California for several years, attending conferences and conventions. Pat’s professionalism makes him a paragon of the pest management industry.”

A key aspect of this professionalism is Copps’ moral values. “Ethics are really important to me — just doing the right thing,” he said. He was quick to point out that he has made his share of mistakes over the years, but the important thing is learning from those mistakes and applying those lessons as you move on.

“Besides being so active in the industry, Pat is always ready to help with any request from his peers or customers,” Siddiqi said. “I am thrilled to see that he is being recognized with the Crown Leadership Award. He deserves it. He is a true leader.”

Trees and Treasure.
While he loves to be on the water sailing, Copps said, “I like to climb trees — big trees. It drives people crazy.” And Copps really does have buried treasure on an uninhabited island.

Few people know it, Copps said, but he used to own an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. “I went there and buried a treasure and made a map which I gave to a friend. He went to dig up the treasure, but never found it.” Unfortunately, not only has the map since been lost, but Copps has sold the island. The island is six acres of nothing but rocks and trees, and the taxes just kept increasing, so it just made more sense to sell it.

Although he may no longer own an island, his love of the land and nature is evident in other personal past times and volunteer work, such as his involvement in conservation work, including his advocacy for the Banning Ranch Conservancy, a group working to save the largest parcel of unprotected coastal open space remaining in Orange County, California, as well as his avid participation in trail running and marathons. At an NPMA meeting in Hawaii, for instance, Siddiqi said a group shuttled from the hotel to Diamond Head, about a seven-mile ride. “As we were about to reach our destination, here is someone running —guess who — it was Pat Copps.”

Whether climbing trees or controlling pests; burying treasure or researching mosquitoes; running trails or helping customers, Copps wants to be “in the game,” he said. “You can watch the game if you want – I want to be in it.”