Experienced termite technician John “J.D.” Donaldson, 51, kills termites with both brains and brawn. In his 16 years with Parker Pest Control, Ponca City, Okla., Donaldson has built the knowledge and expertise to consistently eradicate termites and other pests, as well as train and manage other technicians who do the same. He excels in numerous roles within the company, as its safety officer and trainer, and branch manager of its Ponca City location.
A self-described workaholic, Donaldson puts in the time to ensure everything runs smoothly for his business and customers, volunteering to work extra hours, weekends and some holidays. He exceeds customers’ expectations, bringing in their newspapers and groceries, changing their light bulbs and switching out batteries in their smoke detectors. “I’ve never been scared of work, and I’ve never been scared of hours,” he said. Donaldson’s spirit and generosity translate to his life outside of work, in which he volunteers for various organizations and takes care of his family.
RISING TO THE OCCASION. John “J.D.” Donaldson was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1965, and several years later moved with his family to Walton, N.Y. Twenty years ago, he moved to Oklahoma and began working with his brother T.J.’s roofing company. “I came down here for vacation, and it was warm,” Donaldson said, reflecting on his decision to move. “I didn’t have to wear my coat, and the cost of living was really cheap. I didn’t have to work two jobs to live down here.”
During the next few years, Donaldson moved between multiple jobs, including industrial work, before he saw a Parker Pest Control job posting in the paper. Brad Parker, the company’s president and CEO, originally hired him to perform seasonal termite work. From the beginning, Donaldson volunteered to work extra hours and learn different jobs. Within months, Parker approached him to ask if he wanted to work for the company full-time, and he accepted.
Donaldson now works as a universal technician, and is well-versed in residential, commercial and termite control. He is a certified applicator in general pest control and termite work. “I can’t even tell you how many hours of CEU training he’s attended over the years, but an awful lot — hundreds and hundreds of hours,” said Parker, who took over as manager of the 54-year-old company about 20 years ago from his father, founder Dick Parker.
Additionally, Donaldson has attended roughly 130 hours of Oklahoma Pest Management Association conferences and a two-day BedBug Central course, and he has completed an online general pest control course through Purdue University.
As Parker Pest Control’s safety officer, Donaldson teaches safety and Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance to everyone on staff. He conducts meetings throughout the year, and prepares for them by researching new subjects to discuss, whether they pertain to driving, lifts, crawlspaces, pesticides or any other potentially unsafe conditions. He also researches and cites the OSHA regulations that correspond to those subjects, a process that can take hours each time he does it. As the company’s primary onsite training instructor, Donaldson familiarizes new technicians with the jobs they will be performing, and is accommodating when his coworkers call him with questions.
THE TERMITE DRAW. In certain parts of Oklahoma, it’s only a matter of time before subterranean termites come out to wreak havoc. “If you throw a piece of wood on the ground, termites are going to find it and you’ll see that one is being chewed on by termites,” Parker said.
One particular infestation from several years ago stands out to Donaldson. He was called to a house that was having issues for years that other companies were unable to solve. Donaldson realized termites were both in the wall and underneath the wooden floor and beneath the house’s concrete slab foundation. In the wall along the north side of the house, he discovered studs had been eaten three-and-a-half to four feet up, so he injected a foam. He also drilled holes across the wooden floor and slab in what the company calls a “checkerboard pattern,” and applied a termiticide. Then, he hammered wooden dowels into the floor and stained them.
Donaldson enjoys the challenge associated with termite work. The proper treatment method for a given job depends on multiple factors, such as how a building is constructed. “You have to find different ways to treat because they have wells or you can’t get to a spot, so you have to use different chemicals — foams, borates, liquids, baits,” he said. “It’s challenging; you have to use your mind.” In addition to treating termites himself, he also drafts proposals for many of the company’s termite projects.
Between hammer drilling holes through concrete and using large pickaxes to dig trenches in soil, termite work is more physical than other types of pest control, Parker said. “You use specialized treatment tools to apply products into the soil at certain rates, depending on the type of construction, whether it’s a slab or a basement,” he said. “It’s pretty darn technical.”
In most situations, Donaldson uses the BASF termiticide Termidor at work sites. He and Parker Pest Control have a unique relationship with the chemical company. Donaldson researches termite treatment jobs for BASF when the company’s scientists change formulations in its products. Mechanically inclined, Donaldson has made use of newer technologies, such as termite detection radar, and effectively works with pumps and motors. He also includes maintenance and repair in his training of other technicians.
LIFE OUTSIDE THE OFFICE. Dedication and leadership are not only principles that apply to Donaldson’s work life, but principles he lives by day in and day out. For the past six years, he has chaired an annual Easter egg hunt through the Ponca City chapter of AMBUCS, a charitable organization of which he is a dedicated member. “We have 1,000 kids, we have 4,000 to 5,000 plastic eggs we put out for them to collect, and then we do different age groups and we give out first, second and third place prizes in those age groups,” he said.
Donaldson also has children of his own. He and his wife, Shelley Donaldson, have a split family made up of seven children and 10 grandchildren.
“One thing about his family that we’re all proud of — I know he is too — is that his son is in the army,” Parker said. That son’s name is Garrett Shaw, 23, Donaldson said, and he recently came back home after being stationed away for several years.
In addition to his familial responsibilities and his efforts with AMBUCS, Donaldson volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics and the YMCA. “You’ve got to give back,” he said. “It’s civic responsibility to give back to the community you live in, to help people that are less fortunate in life than you are.”
Describing Donaldson as “one in 100,000,” Parker said he has found in him not only a phenomenal employee, but someone who is akin to family.
Donaldson spelled out his values simply: “Loyalty, honesty, got to be trustworthy in life, or nobody holds you to nothing,” he said, adding one more thing. “If I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.”
The author is PCT contributor who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.