Faye Golden, who directs government relations for Cook’s Pest Control in Decatur, Ala., has accomplished a number of firsts in her career. Starting out, she was the first woman inspector to work for the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) Pesticide Management Section, inspecting nursery stock for pests and ensuring the country’s biggest plant nurseries followed pesticide regulations to protect workers.
More recently, she was elected the first person from industry to serve as president of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators (AAPSE), an organization of professionals from cooperative extension, state and federal agencies, and businesses.
She’s also the first woman from Alabama and the first Black woman elected to the executive committee of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), where she’ll take the reins as president in 2023.
When asked to identify her greatest accomplishment, however, Golden, 48, turns to her personal relationships. Namely, being mom to her “amazing” son, Kerry Tuck, 23, but also to the connections she has built and continues to maintain with colleagues and coworkers.
She still celebrates the birthdays of former workmates at the Department of Agriculture, even though she left there seven years ago to join Cook’s Pest Control. “She doesn’t forget people, which is a rarity,” says Tony Cofer, who heads the ADAI pesticide management division and was Golden’s supervisor. “We all get busy in our day-to-day duties and we’re all full of good intentions, but she always seems to come through on hers,” he says.
Staying connected with people is important to Golden. Relationships are essential to her job at Cook’s Pest Control, where she tracks federal and state regulations impacting the company and ensures Cook’s employees are appropriately certified.
Before Golden came onboard, the company had “a hit-and-miss relationship” with regulators, explains Stephen Gates, Cook’s vice president of technical services. Now, it’s not uncommon for regulators to ask Golden how Cook’s would handle certain situations and to seek out her input when new laws are being considered. “On a national level she really gets our voice out there,” says Gates.
Cofer agrees. “The industry really got an asset because she does understand the regulatory aspects of the industry,” he says. Golden’s knowledge of rules and regulations runs deep, and this builds trust with regulators and pest management professionals.
“If she tells you something, it’s going to be right,” says Fudd Graham, an Auburn University pesticide educator who worked with Golden when she became ADAI’s certification and training director.
He describes her as “by the book,” which didn’t always sit well with PMPs hoping for different answers to their regulatory issues. “If the regulations are out there, she’s going to abide by them. You knew where you stood with Faye,” says Graham.
Her thoroughness and veracity continue to garner respect. “When you meet Faye you instantly like Faye and you trust what she’s telling you is the truth,” explains Cofer. “She can deliver difficult news with a smile and she can be stern with a smile. It’s a talent that not many people have,” he adds.
Committed to Quality Training
Golden is committed to improving training and education for applicators. At ADAI, she introduced a computer-based testing and online license renewal program. Previously, tests were hand-written, available only quarterly, and required weeks to score and mail results. By comparison, the new system is faster, more accessible, and less costly to administer. “Allowing test-takers to schedule exams at their convenience, go to a local testing center, test and receive their exam results instantly, reduces the amount of time to obtain certification and a business license,” she says.
In 2013, Golden left ADAI to join Cook’s Pest Control. While the move was a leap of faith, it promised new challenges. “This job has allowed me to put into action some of the regulations I was part of writing. I always thought I did a good job as a regulator and had a good program, but now with practical experience I see areas I fell short and could have improved,” she says.
One of her first initiatives was to develop a computer program to track the continuing education credits (CEUs) of 1,500 employees operating in seven states. Adapting training to constantly changing regulations keeps her engaged and motivated. “That’s what keeps me going; really keeps me energized,” says Golden.
“She’s all about training,” agrees Joey Harris, chief operating officer of Cook’s Pest Control. “That’s at the top of the list for her; just making sure that our people are very, very well trained.”
In April 2020, Golden celebrated seven years at Cook’s Pest Control. “There’s definitely a difference here: Life before Faye versus life after Faye,” admits Harris. Before she came on board, the company was reactive and always scrambling because people weren’t keeping track of CEUs and licensing deadlines. “Since she’s been here it’s just smooth as can be and she’s way out ahead of them,” he says.
A Winning Personality
Wanda Barron, an IT expert who is now retired, worked with Golden to develop Cook’s automated certification and training program. “I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to work with Faye as I did,” she recalls. “She was a joy to work with, along with her great sense of humor, and the fact that she expected the best from you because that is what she gave, her best,” Barron says.
Golden leads by example through hard work and inclusiveness. “People love her; all different levels and job positions. She can talk to anybody that comes along and have a conversation. It doesn’t matter what they do or have done or are going to do; she can relate,” assures Harris.
“She’s a very smart individual and a very professional person and she just gets along with everybody who she meets; people just seem to be attracted to her. Whatever she’s got to do she just does a great job at it,” he adds.
Golden isn’t one to sit back; she steps up to do the hard work. This includes moving the pest management industry forward on a number of fronts.
One of her main goals as president of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators (her term begins July 2021) will be to get more pest management companies to join. Currently, less than five percent of members come from industry.
As members of AAPSE, companies learn about concerns state lead agencies have regarding certain product uses and get access to new training tools. It’s also an opportunity to showcase the industry’s dedication to training and education with this key public health organization.
Pest management companies even may have influence on rulemaking. Golden chaired a committee tasked with writing comments on EPA’s proposed rule, Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science. If put into effect, that rule will have a major impact on future rulemaking under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
AAPSE wasn’t always open to industry participation, and Golden played a big role in changing that. An active member while an ADAI employee, she lost the right to vote and hold office when she took the job at Cook’s Pest Control. She was bumped to associate member but still had to pay the same dues. She didn’t agree with this and worked to change the bylaws, which were amended in 2016 to give the industry a voice in the organization.
In December 2018, she was voted president elect of the association. “Now I’m the very first person from industry to serve on the board of directors for the AAPSE group,” says Golden.
She also brings industry and regulators together through her support of ASPCRO (Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory Officials), AAPCO (Association of American Pesticide Control Officials) and various state pest control associations.
Shortly after joining Cook’s Pest Control, Golden became active in the National Pest Management Association, which represents 5,500 member companies. She served on the public policy committee, advocating for the pest management industry before Congress and federal agencies.
Golden has been “at the forefront for modernizing regulations that benefit the industry and better help regulators ensure industry compliance,” says Dominique Stumpf, CEO of NPMA.
Currently, Golden is active in NPMA’s diversity committee, which she chaired, as well as the Professional Women in Pest Management group. Both aim to increase participation of under-represented populations – women, minorities, veterans, young people – in the industry.
These groups are helping member companies recognize the need for a more diverse workforce and to cast wider nets to attract and hire qualified employees. These efforts will help the industry develop future leaders who better understand its diverse customers. “We need team members that mirror all people and we can benefit by understanding diverse needs and views,” explains Golden.
In July, NPMA Academy featured a virtual session on building a more diverse workforce. PestWorld 2020 will hold a diversity forum and host students from Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, which has chapters at colleges across the country.
The events are designed to make people feel more comfortable talking about diversity, inclusion, and racial and gender parity. “If you’re not comfortable having the conversation on diversity you can’t grow,” says Golden. “These are the conversations we need to have. We don’t listen to each other enough,” she adds.
Under Golden’s leadership, the diversity committee was named NPMA Committee of the Year in 2017, and she was named Chair of the Year for her work on the committee in 2019.
In April, Golden was elected secretary of NPMA. “To be recognized and nominated for that honor is incredible,” says Golden. Officers automatically ascend to the next position, so she’ll begin her term as president of NPMA in 2023. “We have a deep respect for Faye, her contributions to the industry, and (are) excited about the potential she offers in serving in a leadership role for the association,” says Stumpf.
Golden has the “stick-to-it-ness” to get things accomplished as NPMA president, adds Wayne Golden (no relation), who led government relations at Rollins before retiring in 2017. “She wants to see change and I think if she slow moves it and tries to accomplish one thing at a time, she’ll see that she can make an impact,” he says.
Wayne got to know and mentor Faye toward the end of his career. “The time we did spend together was productive and as one minority to another I was glad to see her progress in the industry the way she has,” he says.
She excels at team building and sharing her knowledge, and she’s driven to bring small minority owned companies into state and national associations so they can benefit from these resources, he said. She’s a role model to minority students in biology, entomology and business as “they can see an African American woman that has made it, that has done well,” he says. “I do believe she’s one of the pioneers in this era of the pest control industry.”
Despite her professional accomplishments, family remains priority number one for Golden, who lives in the same small town of Wetumpka, Ala., where she grew up and where strong community relationships are a given. “With a population of about 8,200, everyone knows one another or at least the members of your family,” she says.
She’s still close with her high school biology teacher, Mrs. Faye Crum. “She made biology exciting and intriguing,” and in the summer of her junior year, Mrs. Crum selected Golden – one of four – to attend a science retreat at Tuskegee University.
“That experience meant so much to me – being on that historic campus and meeting students from across the country that were truly interested in science. Mrs. Crum and that experience really shaped my future,” says Golden.
In her spare time, Golden enjoys spending time with her family, as well as camping and hiking. “When my son was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout, it seems like we were always camping. I enjoyed it so much that I still go and pitch my tent and just enjoy being outdoors,” she says.
Golden also gives back to her community. In July, she began volunteering at the Montgomery Area Food Bank. “So many people and families have been impacted by COVID-19 and are facing food insecurity and I just want to help,” she says.
For more than two years she’s volunteered at Mary Ellen’s Hearth, which provides housing and education – life skills, financial literacy, parenting and nutrition classes – to homeless women and their children. The families may live at Mary Ellen’s Hearth, located in Montgomery, for up to two years if they are working toward independence, explains Golden.
For someone active in so many personal and professional organizations, it’s surprising that Golden considers herself an introvert. Her M.O., she says, is to “sit there and observe” but “when it’s time, then I’ll open up and talk to people.”
Golden’s life is certain to get much busier in coming years but she’s not worried. “I think it’s going to be a fun ride. I have some great people around me who are super supportive,” she says.
Golden hopes to do more mentoring in the years ahead. In 2018, she mentored two industry professionals – Lauren Thrasher of San Diego-based Thrasher Termite & Pest Control of So Cal and Greg Schmidt of Pest Solutions in Thornburg, Va. – through the National Pest Management Association’s Executive Leadership Program.
“It was more rewarding for me than I think it was for them,” says Golden, who believes people with industry experience should help talented newcomers, even if just to lend an ear.
As for being named a 2020 Crown Leadership Award recipient, “I had to read that email three times because I couldn’t believe it,” she says.
She admits to being more focused on doing the behind-the-scenes work than being in the spotlight, and she’s humbled by the honor.
Others aren’t so surprised. Cofer of the ADAI says he can’t think of anyone more adept at leading industry organizations and increasing their professionalism. “She has their best interests at heart and that’s more important than anything,” he says.
Harris of Cook’s Pest Control agrees. “This industry ought to be proud to have her in this leadership role. So many people are benefiting from her work and will continue to benefit from her work. I’m glad she’s playing on our field because we need folks like that. She’s 100 percent sold on this industry,” he says.