The Politics of Pauline

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When friends and neighbors encouraged Pauline Jaske, president of Fairway Transit, Pewaukee, Wis., to run for county supervisor, her husband Bernard “Bud” Jaske said, “Over my dead body.”

“I said: ‘Geez, I wish you wouldn’t have said that,'” Jaske recalls with a grin. “We’ve been married 44 years, so he pretty much knows I’m going to do what I want.”

What Jaske wants is to change the trucking industry and her community for the better. And by all accounts, she’s accomplished her goal. She won a seat on the the Waukesha county board of supervisors handily last year, after being instrumental in preventing the county from widening a local road from two to four lanes to speed travel around the nearby city of Waukesha. “When I started, only four of the 35 county supervisors were against it,” she says. “When we ended, only four were for it.” Proof positive, she says that “you can change things.”

In addition to her duties as a county supervisor, she serves on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association, is active in the Wisconsin Road Team and the Wisconsin Truck Driving Championships and serves on the WMCA safety committee. She speaks often before state and national representatives about trucking issues. And she was recently named to the board of directors of the Waukesha County Technical College.

“She’s one of those rare people who’s a doer,” says Tom Howells, WMCA president. “There are a lot of people who talk a good game, but she puts her time and money where her mouth is.”
Currently, Jaske is focusing her efforts on a $5 million project to build a truck driving school in conjunction with the Waukesha County Technical College. To get the project off the ground, Jaske says, the Wisconsin trucking industry will need to raise $1.5 million. “Even though economic times are hard in this industry, I feel like we have to help ourselves if we expect taxpayers to get behind it,” she says.

Business savvy
Whether she’s raising money for a driving school or voicing concern about a proposed regulation, Jaske looks at each situation from a businessperson’s perspective. That’s important, she says, because too often those in government don’t realize the implications of the policies they set. As an example, she points to a law under which as a small business owner she must offer part-time workers the same benefits as full-time employees. The cost of compliance has forced her to stop hiring summer help and eliminate job-sharing. “They make it impossible to be a good person,” she says. “That’s why I’m in government. I want to change things.”

One of the things she most wants to change is the trucking industry’s image. A big step in the right direction was having Susan Hawk, a former Fairway driver, on the Wisconsin Road Team. “It was good for the industry to have a woman,” Jaske says. Hawk went on to become a member of the original cast of the Survivor TV show. Her celebrity status brought people from all over to visit Fairway. “I’m getting myself a T-shirt that says: ‘I survived Survivor,’ and she’s going to autograph it,” Jaske says.

Kurt Krahn, who has driven for Fairway for 14 years, says he and the company both “reap the benefits” of running show-quality trucks.

Show-quality fleet
Running a fleet of late model, nicely-outfitted trucks is another way the company helps improve the industry’s image. Fairway encourages drivers to take pride in their trucks and even gives them time off – with pay – to participate in truck beauty shows. In fact, Kurt Krahn, a Fairway driver since 1987, won first place in the interior class and third place in the specialty combination class at the Overdrive Pride & Polish in Louisville, Ky., two years ago. Such involvement improves the industry’s image – and driver loyalty. “Pauline is a tough, but fair boss,” Krahn says. “I don’t think I could go anywhere else” and receive the same treatment, he says.

Jaske also credits her dispatchers – one of whom is her son, Steve – with helping keep drivers. “I’ve heard other companies say that a truck driver doesn’t make a good dispatcher, but I don’t think that’s true,” she says. She encouraged Steve to drive one summer during college, so he’d know what drivers put up with. Steve DeBrozzo, Fairway’s other dispatcher, drove for more than 12 years before doctors discovered a tumor on his spinal cord. “He couldn’t drive, so we moved him to the office,” Jaske says. “When he was ready to go back to driving he was doing such a great job, we decided to keep him in the office.”

Her dispatchers are not the only ones who can understand a driver’s perspective. Bud taught Pauline to drive in 1963, “and we’re still married,” he says. She learned on their first truck: a gas-powered, tandem dump with a two-stick transmission, no power steering, no CB, no air-ride, no air conditioning and only an AM radio. “Now if the stereo doesn’t work they can’t go,” says Jaske, who still holds her CDL.

Jaske is careful about the drivers she hires, limiting her recruitment efforts to word of mouth. Even with a recommendation she will only hire inexperienced drivers if they have completed the truck driving program at the Fox Valley Technical College. (The Waukesha program will be based on Fox Valley’s.) Currently, she has three trucks parked because she can’t find the right caliber of driver. “It’s better business,” she says, because poor drivers lead to more accidents and higher insurance premiums.

Jaske works to improve safety outside her company, as well. She encourages her drivers to compete in the Wisconsin Truck Driving Championships each year, where she keeps score and Bud works as a mechanic. As a member of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association Truck Safety Committee, Pauline helped get reflective stripes painted on a section of highway 94 to prevent truck rollovers. Currently the committee is working on developing alternatives to the driver’s education programs which are being phased out of high schools.

Jaske’s dedication to safety perhaps stems from her first career as a registered nurse. When the Jaskes bought their first truck, Pauline worked in a hospital and Bud was a policeman with a yearning to be a trucker. They hauled construction materials locally with Bud driving in the morning, Pauline in the afternoons. When they bought their second truck in 1966, Bud quit the police department to drive full time. In 1967, Bud started Fairway Transit with four other partners. Pauline quit nursing to dispatch and do bookwork. “I had no say in it, and I decided that wasn’t going to work,” she recalls. The Jaskes soon bought out their partners, and Fairway became a true family business.

In-house maintenance
In the years since, Fairway has grown to 32 trucks and about 30 owner-operators, hauling construction materials, scrap metals and hazmat. Bud, who says he “was always into mechanical things” opened a separate business, Bud’s Truck and Repairs, in 1976. He maintains and repairs Fairway’s trucks and does outside work for several other fleets, as well as painting for local Freightliner, Peterbilt and Kenworth dealerships.

In addition to their son Steve, who works in dispatch, the Jaskes’ daughter and daughter-in-law work in the office, along with Pauline’s sister. Even Molly, the Jaskes’ two-year-old granddaughter, functions as the company’s “official greeter,” Jaske says.

A play area for the Jaske’s grandchildren is part of Fairway’s family atmosphere.

Fairway treats its employees as family, as well. Each day, family members and employees sit down together to a full lunch prepared in the kitchen at Fairway’s headquarters. That family atmosphere spills over to how Fairway treats its customers. “There’s a personalized aspect to how they do business,” says Joe Kovacich, vice president of Milwaukee-based Miller Compressor, one of Fairway’s largest customers.

Eight years ago, Miller awarded Fairway the contract to haul its scrap metal, based primarily on the quality of its customer service. “We expect their drivers to scrutinize what they haul for us just like one of our own employees would – and they do that,” Kovacich says.

Fairway does not extend that level of customer service only to its large customers. Jaske’s motto is: “Treat your small customers as good as your big customers because you never know when the small guy will be big and the big guy won’t be around anymore.” In order to live up to her motto, Jaske says she has no plans to grow the company. At its current size, Fairway can serve its customers well and Pauline and Bud still know all of their employees and their families by name.

Another factor is Jaske’s political involvement. If the company grew too much, she would have to curtail her non-business activities – and vice versa. “This local thing I can do and still run the business,” she says, though she admits she has been encouraged to seek higher office. Whether or not she gives in to her political ambitions, one thing is for certain: She will continue to speak her mind.

“I made a difference because I got in there and gave my 2 cents,” she says. And her company, her community and the trucking industry are the better for it.

Location: Pewaukee, Wis.
Principal: Pauline Jaske, president
Equipment: 32 tractors and straight trucks, including Kenworths, Freightliners and Peterbilts; Cummins engines; Eaton transmissions; Cobra, King Cobra, New Castle and Diamond trailers. Also uses 30 owner-operators
Freight: Construction materials, sand, gravel, scrap metal, hazmat
Challenge: Facilitating positive changes in trucking and the community
Solution: Get involved in local politics and trucking associations