Lady Bertolf: ‘We had a deal – I’d take trash out if they would take me in’

Beth Ford is the country’s most powerful woman C.E.O. But the top member of the top-to-bottom wastebasket her company produces wasn’t born on the best of terms. Seventeen years ago, Ford made a pact with the board of her multi-million-dollar trash empire, WG Ford Enterprises, saying that she would clear out the old garbage can if the board agreed to take in the new waste. They agreed. Within weeks, she was tearing into his shit bag, turning the whole place into a human trashed bin.

Gleefully enough, the board approved of her cleaning, planning for the bins Ford brought home to Florida by the truckload were emptied. A hauling company “discovered” them by accident, allowed them to haul them to Florida, and got rid of them because they realized that, like garbage, they are valuable and help with recycling. What they ignored is that the garbage was putting the town at risk.

You see, leech-lined shit bags are a poisoned pill if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. As anyone who sees them can attest, shit bags need to be washed. Blasting the shit bags with washing liquid and hardening them on the line was a successful process, but failed to sterilize the bags.

The #MeToo movement has revealed otherwise abused contractors and drunks instead of conmen who use people as backups, but it also showed not to work with people who don’t wash shit bags. Putting shit bags from a local dump into a truck and having the waste bacteria grow in them has not become something standard procedure. Bags become into junk they’re not good for. And by junk, I don’t mean stupid shit.

Beth Ford and employees of WG Ford Enterprises are examined by the Florida state attorney’s office. Photograph: Rob Loud/Pelican Publishing

The fire gutted the company, the company president tried to get Ford fired, Ford threatened to sue him. They settled out of court, but the damage was done. Everyone on the board of WG Ford Enterprises, it seemed, shucked their gloves. Ford’s “clean-out” became a name for the waste disposal business in the state. Her firm did $28m of business in Florida and $180m nationally.

How she became C.E.O., a job that takes up half her time, working all day every day, you will never know. But I’m going to tell you anyway.

Ford wrote a book about her experience called Dirty Business, which was quietly published in the US last year and has gone to number four on Amazon’s nonfiction bestseller list. She says that, when she bought the garbage business, it was already winning contests. She won the top prize as garbage removers in Russia, and again won the award for best in the world in recycling in India. She got her name on the cover of Time magazine.

Her authority over the shit bag was a clique of board members. But an investigation of the “high gang” revealed in the book’s acknowledgements who played what role in getting Ford her booty.

Gif: Dirty Business by Beth F. Ford

Many of those directors are household names – CEOs of companies that make large amounts of shit bags, who make billion-dollar returns on their corporate profits, who own private jets. By this point, I’m sure you are bored with this being an inside story.

But Ford, a mother of three and member of board members with a penchant for flying commercial and writing a memoir, is the only one who spent a long time going through shit bags, explaining in detail the dirtier stuff that’s left behind, the stuff that is exposed by her memoir.

Why Ford did what she did is often missed or forgotten, as if she were old news. Shame on us, all of us, to forget our personal shit bags. After all, shit bags may not be good for anything. That’s all that she knows.

• Leslie Goggin is a writer and may be contacted on: [email protected]

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