David McCall is Tillamook County’s new Solid Waste Coordinator. McCall comes to Tillamook with a stellar international resume, having worked for the past 20 years in solid waste management with an emphasis on developing recycling programs in Budapest, Hungary.
How does a fellow arrive in Tillamook via Hungary with degree in linguistics (German), and 20 years of progressively responsible experience in solid waste?
McCall is a U.S. citizen, born and raised in South Dakota where he graduated from high school. He attended Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where he earned a degree in Linguistics, specializing in German. Degree in hand, he went to Budapest to teach English in 1990 in a Peace Corps backed program administered by Georgetown University. McCall taught English in Budapest for three years.
The teaching program ended, and McCall was casting about for what to do next. “I stumbled into the waste management business,” he said. “I was in an Irish pub in Budapest were I met an Austrian guy who was having a beer. The guy offered me a job.” McCall took the job with an Austrian company taking over old dumpsites and operating them as modern landfills, taking over old garbage routes and modernizing them, and encouraging recycling efforts.
In the meantime, he fell in love with a Hungarian woman, and they married.
A career was born. McCall worked his way up, and within a few years he became the development director of Eastern European Recycling in the beginning of the big recycling cultural shift in Europe. When McCall began at the job there were 1800 employees, and they processed 6-8 tons of recycled materials per month. Over time the operation became so streamlined that 142 employees were collecting and processing 400,000 tons of recycled materials per year.
“I was in charge of building everything new,” he said. “We added metal (recycling), paper, plastics, pallet repair, and lead acid battery processing…we introduced regular recycling in small towns.”
McCall branched out into consulting, providing waste audits to help businesses produce less waste and recycle more. Ultimately, McCall helped to set up the first curbside recycling company in downtown Budapest. He was a shareholder and General Manager of the company as it grew from 71 houses in the beginning to 65-75 percent of the population four years later.
The business was so successful that it attracted attention from the government.
“About two years ago a new government came into power in Hungary,” McCall described. “They implemented a lot of changes, and nationalized private companies, including mine.”
The new Hungarian government announced that they were taking over waste management, and they simply took McCall’s business. He suddenly found himself unemployed, with a glowing letter of recommendation from the minister of environmental affairs.
He looked for work in his field, but waste management in Hungary was completely nationalized, and he was not a Hungarian citizen, so he couldn’t get a job. He couldn’t get a job elsewhere in Europe, either, because his work Visa was for Hungary alone. After hitting dead ends for months, his family looked across the ocean and began to think about the United States.
Thanks to the Internet, McCall was able to use search engines to look for solid waste jobs all over the world. He interviewed for several jobs in the U.S., and felt that Tillamook was the best fit for his skills and his family.
McCall’s wife, Eva, and 15-year old daughter, Julia, remain in Hungary, where Eva teaches and Julia is in high school. The McCall women will visit Tillamook this summer, and are developing a long-term strategy for moving here. Julia thinks she wants to finish high school in Hungary, and attend college in the U.S.
In the meantime, McCall is getting settled in and sizing up the solid waste system in Tillamook. Not surprisingly, he has great ideas for how we can increase and improve our recycling programs.