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2016 Men of the Year Honoree: Leroy Schaefer

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Leroy Schaefer is known for running Sunbelt Environmental Services Inc. the last 30 years. It’s lesser known that Schaefer started his career working with Jack Stack at the Springfield Heavy Duty plant under the SRC Holdings Corp. umbrella.

Schaefer left SRC to start his own effort in 1986, and his career has since had a sharp focus: the safety of people and the protection of the environment.

For 30 years, he’s put those objectives upon himself and his 30-person crew at Sunbelt Environmental. As owner and CEO, it’s his mission to preserve the natural beauty of the Ozarks, and ensure the unique environment remains for generations.

“We have removed tens of thousands of tons of hazardous materials and waste from uncontrolled areas to disposal facilities equipped to safely monitor or destroy it,” Schaefer says. “This has lessened threats to our surface water and groundwater and has prevented exposure to cancerous agents, such as asbestos and radon.”

Other jobs include lead and mold removal, Superfund cleanups, underground storage tank cleaning and removal, industrial hygiene air monitoring and environmental site assessments. They range from small residential to multimillion-dollar, multiyear projects.

Of course, Sunbelt Environmental is called when the unexpected happens, too. And Schaefer has his crews at the ready.

“Our emergency spill response work ranges from petroleum spills to major responses for releases of fuming acids, dioxins, pesticides and highly flammable shock-sensitive materials,” he says. “We work with local, state and federal agencies to prevent these chemical accidents from threatening waterways, nearby residents or businesses, wildlife and drinking sources.”

Sunbelt Environmental completed 675 projects in 2015, according to Springfield Business Journal list research.

Up next: growing environmental drilling and sustainable energy divisions.

“It was a calculated risk to get a $1.5 million loan for new drilling equipment to install geothermal well systems,” he says. “Our latest endeavor and new department is solar photovoltaic systems.”

Schaefer’s company started as a branch office of Sunbelt Industrial. He’s earned licenses to inspect asbestos and mold, air sampling and hazardous materials – the latter at the master level. His credentials look like alphabet soup behind his name, with the likes of DOT, OSHA and CHMM.

While his responsibility rests on the management, operations and financial performance of the company, Schaefer uses his industry knowledge to provide specialized training to employees. He’ll provide personal oversight of high profile/high risk emergency response jobs, too.

Over the years, Sunbelt Environmental has made financial and in-kind services donations to multiple organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation and Ozark Greenways. The company has gifted over $100,000 to United Way.

Schaefer, a business management graduate of Drury University, has served on the boards of the Northside Springfield Betterment Association and Watershed Committee of the Ozarks.

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