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PMP honors 2016 Hall of Fame inductees

PMP 2016 Hall of Fame

The PMP Hall of Fame Class of 2016: Dr. Vernard Lewis; Larry Treleven; Blair and Brenna Toblan, who accepted on behalf of their father, Vern Toblan; and Dick Sameth.

The 2016 class of Pest Management Professional’s (PMP’s) Hall of Fame was honored at a black-tie ceremony Oct. 17 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel in Seattle on the eve of the National Pest Management Association‘s 2016 PestWorld.

This year, four industry icons joined the ranks of 83 other members of the PMP Hall of Fame, which was established in 1997 to recognize the many leaders and pioneers — both contemporary and from generations past — in the pest management industry.

Inductees include Dr. Vernard Lewis, University of California — Berkley, Richard Sameth, retired, Western Pest Services, Vern Toblan (deceased), Pi Chi Omega, and Lawrence Treleven, Sprague Pest Solutions.

The evening’s first honoree was Dr. Vernard Lewis, who currently serves as Cooperative Extension Entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley. He’s been involved in the pest management industry for 35 years. Before his post as an entomology professor, Dr. Lewis was pest management department head at San Quentin Prison and owner of IPM Systems.

During his acceptance speech, Dr. Lewis thanked his Nana and Pop in Fresno; his parents for teaching him responsibility; his 9 brothers and sisters, who taught him how to cooperate and negotiate; his Aunt Ethel, who let him sleep on her couch for two years while he attended college; and Berkley, for “three degrees and a job.”

He said, “I had this tremendous network of industry and academics…thank you for supporting my career.” He then thanked his wife, Dr. Lisa Kala, saying, “She’s here today, she’s always been there with me.” He also thanked his daughter, grandson and the relatives who remind him “there’s more to life than just work.”

The evening’s next inductee was Dick Sameth, who worked for the family business, Western Pest Services, his entire pest management career. Sameth is a second-generation PMP Hall of Famer — his father, J.E. Sameth, was inducted in 1998. He retired as vice president of Western Pest Services after 49 years, but not before he, and brother and company president Bob Sameth, helped grow Western Pest Services into one of the largest pest management companies in the countries. The family sold their business to Rollins Inc. long before mergers and acquisitions were common in the pest management industry.

“When [PMP Editor] Heather Gooch called me to tell me I’d been selected to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, I was overwhelmed,” he said. “Hard for me to believe that, 18 years ago, I received this award for my father, J.E. Sameth.” Sameth acknowledged his wife, Polly, who could not attend, as well as valued colleagues in the pest management industry.

He continued, “Due to my dad’s involvement and my age, I find myself to be a link between the founding fathers of our industry and today’s leaders who have very abley continued the willingness to share their philosophy.”

Larry Treleven, co-owner and co-president of Sprague Pest Solutions, has been in the pest management field for 45 years. At Sprague, he’s been a technician, sales associate and branch manager and now splits management duties with brother, Alfie Treleven.

Looking on as Treleven was inducted into the Hall of Fame were 13 members of his family, including his wife, Jane, his children and his infant grandson and granddaughter.

He thanked the family and the company for making it possible to serve the industry, which took time away from the company. He also thanked his fellow Class of 2016 inductees, with whom he worked over the years.

“We also are so appreciative of all of you. This business is so relationship-driven. It’s all about the people, because it’s the people that deliver the service, it’s the people that work with you and your teams, and it’s the people that are our clients. So we have to remember that,” he said. “We have to nurture it, like we’re planting seeds for the future, because we are.”

Posthumous inductee Vern Toblan was instrumental in guiding industry fraternity Pi Chi Omega into the 21st century. He took immense pride in his work for the fraternity, and his enthusiasm was contagious. His daughter Brenna and son Blair were on hand on their father’s behalf.

In a moving speech, Brenna told the crowd, which included many Pi Chi Omega members, “It’s been very moving to hear all the kind words everyone has had to say about our dad. We really didn’t know, from our perspective, just how involved he was in the industry.”

Son Blair concurred, saying, “My father didn’t just have a passion for the pest control industry, he had a passion for life. He was tremendously honored to be a part of the industry.” He thanked Heidi Ross, Toblan’s longtime partner who was unable to attend the ceremony, as well as those in the industry who knew him.

“Nothing would make him happier than this group gathered together, thinking of the good times that you all experienced with him,” he said.

The PMP Hall of Fame induction ceremony is an annual event. To nominate a someone in the pest management industry, submit a nomination form.

Managing Editor Diane Sofranec can be reached at or 216-706-3793.

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PMP Hall of Fame 2016 Inductee: Dick Sameth

Dick Sameth, who helped Western Pest Services become the company it is today, is PMP’s first second-generation Hall of Famer — his father, J.E. Sameth, was inducted in 1998.

PMP Hall of Fame 2016

Name: Dick Sameth
Years in business: 49
Key positions held: Vice President, Western Pest Services; NPMA President 1996-97
Major industry contributions: Grew Western Pest Services into one of the largest pest management companies in the countries; sold the company to Rollins Inc. long before mergers and acquisitions were common in the pest management industry; instrumental in ensuring FIFRA was written with pest industry input; also oversaw a great deal of positive change in NPMA during his presidency and left the association with surplus revenue.

Photo: John Eisinger

You might say Dick Sameth was born into the pest management profession. He and his brother Bob picked up where his father, grandfather and aunt left off.
Photo: John Eisinger

In 1928, their father, J.E. Sameth, launched Western Pest Services with their grandfather Maurice and Aunt Ailene. When J.E. retired in 1998 (the year the then-91-year-old was inducted into the PMP Hall of Fame), he left the company in the capable hands of sons Dick, who served as vice president; Bob, who was president; and daughter Jeanne Burke, the company’s corporate secretary.

A family affair

Dick Sameth got into the family business in 1955, handling termite jobs while in high school. He attended Dartmouth College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in zoology. He then went to the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration to earn his bachelor’s of arts degree in business administration.

Sameth says he liked the social interaction with customers and his fellow employees. At the time, many workers emigrated from Scotland and settled in New Jersey. They found work at the Nairn Linoleum factory in Kearny, near Western’s office.

“We were able to hire some very hardworking, loyal people,” he recalls. “They were still there when I started work in 1960, but they were just phasing out. They were the backbone of the company, and they were wonderful people.”

Western has always had a reputation for hiring dedicated, loyal employees. Sameth attributes the low turnover to excellent supervision and training.

Dick Sameth (far right) poses on the “Freshman Fence” with his parents in 1955, the year he entered Dartmouth College. Photo: Dick Sameth

Dick Sameth (far right) poses on the “Freshman Fence” with his parents in 1955, the year he entered Dartmouth College.
Photo: Dick Sameth

“Dad was the driving force on that in our company,” Sameth says. “He thoroughly believed in it.”

The company assigned one supervisor for every seven technicians. The supervisor’s sole job was to go out in the field and help new employees as well as long-time employees.

“We spent a lot of money as well as time, and that kept our employee turnover down,” Sameth says. “It also kept our customer turnover down.”

Western continued to grow, servicing customers in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania. It established a distribution company in 1946 and a fumigation division in 1983. Before long, it was one of the largest pest management firms in the country.

The company’s success made it attractive to firms looking to merge, and that’s exactly what happened in 2004. Rollins Inc. came calling, making Western a wholly owned subsidiary.

“That was really the start of it all,” Sameth says. “Now you see mergers of companies, mergers of suppliers.”

Sameth retired from Western in 2004. He still keeps up with the industry, however, attending association meetings about every other year.

Serving the industry

Sameth says he enjoyed being involved in the political side of the pest management industry, and his prominent involvement was another factor in his inclusion in the PMP Hall of Fame.

In the 1970s, when the National Pest Control Association (now the National Pest Management Association, or NPMA) staff did not have strong government ties, he worked with fellow PMP Hall of Famers Bob Russell, director of government relations at Orkin (1997) and Charlie Hromada, vice president of government relations for Terminix International (1998) to ensure the U.S. Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) would not hamper pest management efforts.

Boating is one of Dick and Polly Sameth’s favorite pastimes. Photo: Dick Sameth

Boating is one of Dick and Polly Sameth’s favorite pastimes.
Photo: Dick Sameth

“I worked with them for three or four years; we would meet in Washington, D.C., or talk on the phone all the time,” Sameth recalls. “Both companies [Orkin and Terminix] had a lot of interest in making sure the regulations that were put forth were in the best interest of not only our industry, but the public as well.”

Sameth was elected president of the NPMA for the 1996-1997 term. Under his watch, the NPMA returned policy-making powers to the board of directors, implemented a joint state partnership campaign to help boost membership, and mounted a public awareness campaign.

While at the NPMA, he worked closely with Ward Combs, the founder of Presto-X, and Larry Treleven, co-owner of Sprague Pest Solutions and a fellow 2016 PMP Hall of Fame inductee. At the end of his tenure, Sameth left the NPMA with a surplus of funds — a feat not accomplished in years.

Sameth is quick to point out that he was able to participate in industry activities so fully because of his brother’s hard work in keeping Western thriving during his absences. It should come as no surprise, then, that what Sameth says he enjoys most about the pest management industry is the willingness of people to exchange information among one another.

“Even competitors share information. It was true in my dad’s time, it was true when I was working, and it’s true today,” he adds. “There are a lot of great people in the industry.”

Now that he’s retired, Sameth splits his time between Mantoloking, N.J. and Vero Beach, Fla., where he enjoys sailing, boating, fishing and biking. He keeps busy by staying involved. For instance, he’s vice president of the Moorings Yacht & Country Club. He also spends time with wife Polly, their two sons, two daughters and six grandchildren.

Managing Editor Diane Sofranec can be reached at or 216-706-3793.

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