[Helping Out] The Trip of a Lifetime

Features - People

Industry veteran “Corky” Mizer recently volunteered his time and effort with the Spirit of Liberty Foundation, an enriching experience that took him all the way to Iraq and Kuwait.

December 28, 2012
Jordan Fox

When California PCO “Corky” Mizer got involved in the Spirit of Liberty Foundation several years ago, he found a gratifying way to demonstrate his love for his country and the troops that protect us.

The Spirit of Liberty Foundation (SOLF), Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is a non-profit foundation that raises awareness and supports America’s armed forces, the wounded or fallen and their families, according to the organization.

The 71-year-old owner of Corky’s Pest Control, San Marcos, Calif., looks back fondly to six “heart-warming days” during the Christmas season of 2010, when he and a group of his fellow SOLF volunteers visited Marines and their families in four military hospitals in Texas and New York. They then traveled to overseas bases in Kuwait and Iraq. In Iraq, outfitted with bulletproof vests and other necessary equipment, Mizer and his fellow volunteers met with “top brass” and then with Marines and special forces.

On the ground. Mizer tells of stopping at the base in Kuwait where Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders were entertaining the troops, where afterwards he and fellow volunteers met with many of the marines stationed there. “They are truly great heroes,” Mizer said.

Another stop for his group was a nearby helicopter base where they met with crews responsible for rescuing the wounded. “Meeting and talking with them impressed us so much. We saw that they were brave, spectacular people,” he said.

Mizer says he and his group were impressed with the “enthusiasm and commitment” of the Marines they met. “We never encountered even one Marine who was sorry to be in Iraq. Everyone saw the need to be there and wanted to do their duty. Many of the wounded were anxious to be healed and return to their units. Even those who were amputees wanted to get their prosthetic limbs and get back to the war zones.”

Mizer and his fellow volunteers returned from the trip with some valued souvenirs, including an American flag given to them at a firebase in Iraq and photos of their visits with the wounded Marines. Another souvenir was a target that Corky and friends had been shooting at while visiting a rifle range.

Mizer said his vacation trips over the years have taken him all over the world, but this volunteer trip had special meaning. “It was wonderful to meet with these heroes and to be with them during the Christmas season. There’s nothing like visiting with our troops. It was an honor and a privilege to do so, and given the opportunity we’ll do it again.”

At a Glance: Corky’s Pest Control

Mizer used the words “enthusiasm” and “commitment” when describing the troops he met in Iraq, and those words aptly illustrate what has driven the success of his own pest control firm.

Mizer founded his own company, Corky’s Pest Control, about 45 years ago to serve customers in Southern California. In recent years, the company has averaged about $15 million in annual revenue. They provide general pest, termite, rodent and bed bug control services, as well as attic insulation work, landscape spraying and handyman repair. “About 90 percent of our customer calls are for ant and spider control,” he says.

Based in San Marcos, he employs about 120 pest control professionals who protect properties in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino, as well as the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. He firmly believes his employees are key to his company’s success.

“We’re meticulous about hiring and training the right people and we strive for the utmost efficiency, effectiveness and professionalism in their work,” he says. “For example, they work from 90 satellite-monitored vehicles, which ensure fast and efficient routing. And we’ve computerized much of our operations, including treatment schedules and inventories of vulnerable plants on customers’ properties.

“We make it a point to hire employees with the right backgrounds,” he continued. “One of our staff members has a Ph.D. in plant pathology, several others have bachelor’s degrees in botany and zoology, and others have extensive experience in pest control and landscaping.

“I was into IPM before they called it IPM,” he says, adding his company has long employed preventive strategies. “Landscape spraying residential properties was our first service offering. Treating landscapes first means you can stop insects from invading homes. If you control plant-sucking insects like aphids and white flies, the ants and spiders that prey on them won’t be attracted to a property.”

In addition to running his company, Mizer has written a variety of training manuals that are available through Univar Environmental Sciences. His work is reproduced on both Univar’s and his company’s website.

Prior to starting his company, Mizer, who grew up on a farm in Michigan, moved to California where he worked as a supervisor for General Motors in Fremont. During his General Motors years he became a Friday night poker-playing buddy with several PCOs. Their conversations about bugs and their businesses intrigued him, and he decided to switch careers from automobile manufacturing to pest control. He’s been going at it strongly — and successfully — ever since.


The author is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached at jfox@giemedia.com.