Mary Lou Des Champs was getting ready for her day when she saw the attacks on the World Trade Center happen live on morning television. That was a pivotal moment in her life, one which inspired her to do all she could to advance freedom in America.
“All I ever wanted to do was something worthwhile with my life and have it be meaningful, and try to inspire as many people as I could to be like that. You should always want to climb to the top of the ladder, but never get there, so that you keep striving all the time,” says Mary Lou, president and CEO of Storr Tractor.
“After 9/11 we could smell all the burning from where we were in New Jersey,” she recalls. When Mary Lou learned people were stealing the water bottles and other supplies which had been donated to rescue workers at Ground Zero, and that supplies were being shuttled back and forth from a warehouse in order to prevent theft, she saw a unique opportunity to help. “You couldn’t use a big truck because it would be in the way. I gave them a fleet of mid-sized utility vehicles, called Toro Workmen, for no other reason than because I wanted to do my patriotic duty.”
“Mrs. D,” as she’s known around her warehouse, has been passionate about her business—and her country—for as long as she can remember. Her mother always talked about the importance of voting, which Mary Lou took to heart. After losing her father at an early age, Mary Lou had a close relationship with her grandfather while she was growing up. She remembers, “My grandfather came here from Germany. He loved this country. He couldn’t wait to be an American. I think that enthusiasm rubbed off on me.”
Recalling family meals during her childhood, Mary Lou says, “Every night at the dinner table, since I had a stepfather who was in business, it was all conversation about customers and people and that inspired me.”
After Obamacare passed, many of Storr Tractor’s competitors downsized in an effort to prepare for increasing costs of government overregulation. Mary Lou gathered her sales team and said, “You go out there and call on your customers just like nothing has happened. You realize they may not have the money [to buy equipment], but you’re there to help them. Consult with them in any way you can.”
Excitedly, Mary Lou says, “You wouldn’t believe what happened! We were able to get through all of that and not let our services slip.”
That entrepreneurial spirit is at the core of who Mary Lou Des Champs is. “My grandfather was a very firm believer that the unions were not needed in this country any more, though at one time maybe they were. But they have gotten carried away over the years and become a crutch for the political arena,” she says. “I’ve hired union workers before, and they came to me after receiving their first few paychecks and were blown away by how much more they were making with me compared to the union—and they didn’t have to pay dues!”
An ardent believer in workplace freedom, pushing back against the coercive power of public sector unions has been a passion for Mary Lou in recent years. Her lifelong mission to inspire others to constantly reach for more has been evident in her support of the Heritage Foundation, National Right to Work, and State Policy Network. Mary Lou began supporting SPN in 2009. Like so many people frustrated with the direction in which the country has been heading recently, Mary Lou was encouraged when she read a letter from SPN’s president Tracie Sharp.
“I laid it aside from all the other mail. I liked everything about what your intentions were. I thought, ‘This looks like a good thing to belong to.’ I wanted to support this effort. I was inspired.”
Mary Lou sees a United States that is very different from the world she grew up discussing around the dinner table with her family.
“The country is going in so many different directions. I think we’re going through a period of distrust,” she says. But when asked what she hopes others will see in her support of SPN, Mary Lou replies, “You have to keep trying. You can never give up.”