- Author: Mark Bolda
I have a comment on a recent article in the Wall Street Journal concerning the recent hire of Kathleen Corradi as the “rat czar” in New York City to coordinate the control effort of the brown rat (also known as Norway rats or sewer rats) population there. The article is sort of written tongue and cheek, but follow me here because there is a lesson to be distilled out of this on implementing a successful areawide pest management program.
The rat czar requires by the position description “a swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor, and general aura of badassery”, and it had some 900 applicants, maybe attracted because of the flamboyant wording of the position announcement, or because of the hefty $155,000 per year salary or others drawn by the challenge of controlling a population of two million rats in a major metropolis.
Many of the applicants offered up new methods to add on to other ones tried previously and since discarded such as mint scented garbage bags or an alcoholic solution as the end all to control rats, but not one of these people made the cut.
Rather Kathleen Corradi was hired, who before this position studied biology in college and then worked as an elementary school teacher.
Why would a person apparently with so little actual pest management experience be hired for the position? Because this position, as it should be, is not about introducing some sort of wonder method, but rather is to focus on what we all as pest managers already know, meaning that just killing a lot of rats isn't enough since they will only be replaced by their offspring. We will only be successful by forcing the rat numbers down by denying them food by securing garbage and disturbing their habitats so they can't breed. And to accomplish this at a scale to be effective, one ends up managing a lot of people - coordinating the city's anti-rat initiatives with other city agencies such as Parks, Sanitation and Public Housing and also by convincing that huge city full of people to, without exception, store their trash properly, not leave food in the open and not leave places around for the rats to breed.
That the Mayor of New York City Eric Adams picked Mrs. Corradi because of her "emotional intelligence" (meaning you understand and are able manage your own emotions, along with understanding and influencing the emotions of those around you) speaks volumes about his own understanding on what is really needed to take on a big problem and ultimately solve it. Not quick fixes, not technology and certainly not just blasting away at it. He needed a person, who by being able to work easily with a lot of other people, could amplify by the thousands what we as pest managers already know is going to work to control all of these rats.
So yes, it's less about the rats than it is about the people.