By Adia Walker / Published September 2016
When James “Scotty” Scott was presented with the CETA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, it was seen by the industry as a well-deserved recognition for a man who positively impacted so many people across the United States. Scotty, however, stated that he was “both amazed and surprised” to be chosen as the award recipient.
“When I heard that some of the distributors I set up wrote letters backing my nomination for the CETA Lifetime Achievement Award, I was a proud boy,” James said. “My belief has always been that the distributor is the first line in selling pressure washers, and it is the factory’s job to help train them to sell, service, and maintain the equipment. When we purchased Alkota, we knew some changes had to be made. We upgraded and brought out new models of cleaners, we changed programs, and we hired new people to assist our distributors. Positive changes keep companies fresh and successful. I hope it has been as successful for you as it has been for us. When my brother Gary joined the Lifetime Achievement Award club, I was again proud. Between the two of us, we have approximately 100 years in the cleaning equipment business. And best of all, it has given us friends in almost every state in the union. All I can say is, I’m proud and happy with the award which hangs over my desk, and I want to thank all of you for being great friends and for the wonderful memories.”
In early 2016, Scotty lost his life in a battle with cancer, leaving behind a legacy of leadership and kindness. Those who worked with him will greatly miss his pioneering presence in the field and cherish the memories and lessons that Scotty left behind. Many members of the cleaning equipment industry were moved to put into words the imprint that James Scott left on them, and graciously shared their thoughts with Cleaner Times.
“Once you were around Scotty a few times, you started to realize just what a special, caring man he was,” writes Debbie Murray, Executive Director of the Cleaning Equipment Trade Association (CETA). “He loved his family, which also included his Alkota family. During the Alkota dealer meetings, or family reunions as we liked to refer to them, you always felt like he was genuinely concerned and curious about how you, your family, and your business were doing. He was a man of integrity, love, and humor. He handled his illness with dignity and always had encouraging words for you, even in his last days. He had an impact on everyone’s life that he touched. Seeing the sea of ‘Alkota Orange’ that was present at his service and pictures that were sent in from all across the country, even from competitors, was very touching and showed you what kind of man he was.”
“On a professional level, he was always there for me,” recalls Martin Setzer, owner of Wisconsin Steam. “During my first year in this industry (1973), my parents decided to take a short vacation. Dad simply told me that if something came up, I could call Scotty and he would be of great help. He was so patient and would even call the customers with me (many times) to verify the problem(s) and make sure the correct parts were sent out. He cared about everyone he came into contact with and would do whatever he could to help them. He carried this philosophy out of the business world and would help those in need at their church, serving food to those who needed it every Christmas. That was how he and his family spent Christmas—helping those who needed help.”
“Scotty was ever present on all of our award trips,” remembers Shannon W. Rushing, President and CEO of American Sales. “I was honored to travel the world with him for more than 25 years. Scotty spearheaded many of our marketing campaigns and impacted our strategy approach. He spent time in the field and could see the obstacles from the side of the distributor, not just from a manufacturing standpoint.”
“Scotty treated all his distributors as his best friends,” writes Tom Usher, retired president of Citation Equipment in Louisville, KY. “Jim kept his customers happy, so we could keep our customers happy.”
“I remember the first time I met him was right after they had bought Alkota,” says Dean Ayers, CEO of American Cleaning Systems Inc. “He came to Odessa and left a machine with me to try out. When he came back the next time, he brought his family. He bought groceries, and we barbecued in the back yard, making it a family affair.”
“I have many great memories of Scotty,” says Steve Larsen of Go Forward Marketing. “Scotty had a keen sense of humor and always made that humor a positive influence. Scotty’s wonderful, long-term commitment to adding value to everyone in the cleaning industry (his clients, his co-workers, his employees, his vendors, etc.) is a true rarity.”
“Some of my fondest recollections were hunting trips with Scotty,” recalls Dick Johnson, Southern Regional Manager for Alkota Cleaning Systems. “He was a darn good shot and seldom missed. We never told him that, for heaven’s sake, though. Scotty had a full, thick head of hair. One of his greatest joys was to come into my follicle-challenged office and take out his comb and comb his hair. After a few pulls he would state, ‘I really need to get this stuff thinned because I can hardly get a comb through it.’
“Scotty was a mentor long before it was cool to be one,” continues Johnson. “You could count on pinpoint accuracy and honest evaluation when he was helping you. He started in the business more than 50 years ago as a forklift driver. He finished his career an officer and past owner of the company he loved. He was given nothing, having earned every promotion.”
“Scotty always greeted everyone with a smile,” writes Russ Hess, Regional Manager with Alkota Cleaning Systems. “His positive attitude toward family and life made me a better person after spending time with him. Scotty loved his family. Alkota, our customers, and the industry were his extended family.”
“Scotty was a role model,” states Rod Wertz, co-owner of M & M Pump Co. Inc. “He taught me patience and understanding. If I didn’t have an answer, I could go to him, both professionally and in my personal life.”
“Jimmy had this great smile,” remembers Jack Hill, vice president of sales and marketing at General Pump. “He always had that smile on when talking about his wife and daughters. He impressed upon me that there were a great deal of things that were much more important than how many machines or pumps were sold.”
“He loved his customers and always went above and beyond to help,” recalls Jeffrey K. Burros, vice president of sales at Alkota Cleaning Systems. “Scotty was a wealth of knowledge in the pressure washer industry, and he will be sadly missed.”
“When I was growing up, Jim was my older brother and, being eight years older than I, was a hero in my eyes,” writes Gary Scott, president of Alkota Cleaning Systems and brother of James Scott. “He was an excellent student and graduated at the top of his class in high school. That was a goal he set for me to try to reach.
“Jim was a really good fast-pitch softball pitcher,” recalls Gary. “He had a great fastball and an excellent changeup. Jim loved that game and spent hours teaching me how to catch a fly ball, to not “boot” grounders, and to understand the strategy of the game. I grew to love the game, and along the way, I learned how to be a catcher. Jim would pitch and I would catch; we were a good team. I have great memories of those games.
“Our dad was a pheasant hunter and fisherman,” continues Gary. “He would take us fishing during the summer season and pheasant hunting in the fall season. After my dad died when I was thirteen, Jim took over the duty of taking my brother and I fishing and pheasant hunting.
“When I began my career in the cleaning equipment industry, Scotty was already there breaking ground for me,” says Gary. “I got to travel with Scotty and see him interact with distributors. It was a great learning experience. I watched Scotty help new distributors get started, teach people how to sell cleaning equipment, and get leads. I watched him help struggling distributors become successful. I watched him help make successful distributors even more successful. I watched him make friends with the people he worked with.
“An inspiration, an example to follow, a teacher, a friend, and a loving brother—these are all roles that Scotty has filled for me,” writes Gary. “I will miss him every day personally and professionally. Scotty was a good man.”