Conn Pest Control Owner Judy Shelton and Air Force Reservist DJ Menotti, a technician at the firm.

When Judy Shelton, owner of Conn Pest Control in Flagstaff, Ariz., hired technician DJ Menotti in February 2017, she was supportive of the fact that he was a veteran and serving in the Air Force Reserve. She did not anticipate, however, that he would be deployed to Kuwait later that year. Nonetheless, Shelton and her entire office pitched in to cover Menotti’s service route during his nearly seven-month deployment. “We just figured it out,” Shelton said, “I have no regrets. None.”

And as a result of her “figuring it out,” Shelton received two awards recognizing her efforts relating to Menotti’s employment.

THE BACKGROUND. Menotti, who answered an online ad for employment at Conn Pest Control, had already been deployed three times. Consequently, he did not anticipate a fourth deployment (and neither did Shelton). “I’ve hired veterans before, but not ones that were in the Reserve,” Shelton said. This factor presented “a learning curve” and required ongoing scheduling adjustments because Air Force Reservists participate in ongoing training, occurring one weekend each month as well as two additional weeks per year.

Shelton said she hired Menotti because he met certain employment criteria, he possessed the customer service and critical thinking skills required for the job, and she felt that he had an aptitude for learning the pest control business. Of course, upon hiring any new technician, including Menotti, the company invests time and energy in training, testing and licensing.

Because of Menotti’s relatively short tenure and that his new technician training was in full swing, Menotti was reluctant to tell Shelton he was getting deployed again, she says. But despite the news, Menotti didn’t have to worry. The team at Conn Pest Control was ready to pitch in.

A TEAM EFFORT. An employee’s deplyment is tough for employers “for a number of reasons. When you hold a position for a (deployed service member), he basically continues to accrue any sick time, vacation time and pay raises that he would have received or earned if he had been here,” Shelton said.

Menotti was deployed to Kuwait on Dec. 31, 2017. During the time Menotti was in Kuwait, the whole Conn Pest Control team helped in keeping Menotti’s route going, with five technicians covering six pest routes. “My other team members here just kicked in. It wasn’t just me,” Shelton said.

“It’s more than worth it as an employer” to hire a veteran or someone active in the Reserve because “overall it’s a good thing to do,” to support the troops, Shelton said. Plus, she said that “I was fortunate because I have a team that understood what we were doing here.” The team “just made it work,” and as a result Menotti was very appreciative, she said. Menotti also knew that he had a job waiting for him upon his return.

Menotti returned home and to work in mid-July 2018. Shelton said Menotti is a valuable, long-term employee because of his skills, work ethic and integrity. “He was definitely worth the investment,” she said.

Lucy and George Conn founded Conn Pest Control in 1974.

PATRIOTIC RECOGNITION. Although Shelton says her efforts in hiring Menotti as a veteran and reservist as just “a good thing to do,” Menotti and the Department of Defense had a different perspective. They viewed her support as honorable and patriotic and thanks to Menotti’s nomination, Shelton received a Patriot Award in June 2017 for hiring him as a member of the Air Force Reserve.

She received a second Patriot Award in August 2018 because she held Menotti’s job for him. This second award fostered more publicity and “there was more of a ceremony,” Shelton said. Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans attended the event, which made front-page news of the Arizona Daily Sun on Aug. 3, 2018.

A PATRIOTIC HERITAGE. Interestingly, Judy Shelton was born in Washington, D.C., and is part of the third generation in her family to be born in the capital city. Shelton recalls, “My mom grew up roller skating on the sidewalks around the White House,” and her brother, father, and both of her grandfathers were in the military and fought in wars. One of her grandfathers, George W. Sartain, was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in action while serving in the U.S. Army in World War I and saving the lives of three wounded soldiers in France.

Her hiring of DJ Menotti was a natural decision. “That is my part: to support the veterans because I can’t do what they do. And, I’m grateful,” Shelton said.

The author is an Ohio-based freelance writer.