One of Kentucky’s residents is living a double life.
Most of her hours take place at Veolia’s sulfuric acid production facility, where sulfur-based products are created to support the manufacturing of consumer products like soap and toothpaste. She also happens to be Mayor of Wurtland, a city of 1,000 sitting right on the south side of the Ohio River. Her name is Donna Hayes, and for 17 years she’s made a career in the chemical industry thrive alongside a role in the public community.
School and Sulfur
Donna moved to Kentucky from West Virginia upon getting married, at which point the chemical manufacturing business was just entering her radar. “I saw a DuPont logo on a sign and I was well aware of their name,” she said. They had a sulfur plant right there in Wurtland, and Donna was soon hired.
Donna quickly extended her talents, though. In addition to her work in sulfuric acid production, she also became PTO president to support the town’s school system. For seven years she balanced her environmental duties while advocating for new computer labs and playground equipment at the local elementary school. Eventually the community encouraged her to run for public office. Her own neighbor wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, she became City Commissioner.
Suddenly she was in the public and private sector at the same time, and one more change four years later helped both of them work as harmoniously as they could.
Mayor of Wurtland
In 2000, Donna was elected Mayor of Wurtland.
That year, she added to her career in sulfur products with an office that put her even further in the public eye, and the needs of both were noticeably similar. With her heightened knowledge of the city’s progress, she saw her manufacturing facility in context of a larger community where many things are interconnected.
“Both the public and private sectors need to have a sincere appreciation for the other,” she said recently. “Communication between the two, and honest concern for the needs of each, helps to make for a healthy and long-lasting relationship.” Donna’s ‘double life’ depended on this thinking, but it wasn’t hard. Her tenure in local politics had risen to a level that showed these were in fact perfect complements.
A Public Politician With Private Expertise
For 15 years, and many elections in between, Donna helped foster a sense of cooperation across the city. During this time, her chemical facility became Chemours — a spinoff of DuPont — and was acquired by Veolia North America in 2016, where the plant joins a breadth of other municipal and industrial services that promote sustainability.
With Mayor Hayes’ longstanding voice in Wurtland, and now deeper visibility into the private sector, the possibilities for success across the city were much broader. What started as a familiar logo on the side of a sulfur products facility 48 years ago is now a culture of resilience and sustainability that spans multiple areas of Wurtland’s infrastructure.
“As this is a service position,” she said, “the Mayor is not able to respond to the many needs of the city during the day. My Veolia colleagues do that for me, and they’ve been great.”
Donna will make 2018 her last year in office, but her life in Wurtland offers timeless memories and future enjoyment. Her friends at City Hall, her grandkids, her husband of 48 years and her son — a doctor at the local hospital — all reflect the safe, caring and high-energy environment she sought to bring to both sides of her career.
“From a mayor’s point of view, the cooperative efforts of Veolia, residents and the city have been great,” she said. “Both of my positions have enhanced the other, and I have thorough faith that this positive atmosphere will continue.”
Read more about the valuable things our employees bring to Veolia, and the communities where we live and work, on Planet North America.