Alabama pumper Leslie Sisson Warren loves her business, but she’s also passionate about singing, acting and supporting her hometown.
Most times, I fall asleep with my boots on my feet,” says Leslie Sisson Warren, owner of Sisson’s Pell City Septic Tank in Alabama. And that’s probably not hyperbole.
Warren is not only the owner of the company founded by her grandfather. She’s a creative and cultural fixture in Pell City, a town of 13,500 people located between Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta. Keeping busy at work is one thing, but Warren has many outside interests that showcase her talents and keep her in tune with the community she loves.
“I make time (for all my activities),” says Warren, 42. “There are a lot of things I’m involved in that are very important to me.”
For Warren, the company’s only employee, it’s curated chaos. But it’s so worth the effort for the singer, actor, musician and local activist.
“I’m very blessed,” she says. “I don’t go hungry; I have my bills paid. … This business and this industry provide everything I need.”
STRONG WORK ETHIC
Warren took over the pumping business three years ago from her stepfather, Jim Newman, and her mother, Donna Sisson Newman. On the job, Warren focuses on septic service, inspection and installation of septic tanks, servicing grease traps, renting a small inventory of portable restrooms, and conducting onsite system real estate inspections. She recently earned a license to install septic tanks.
“I want to get every license I can possibly get and get more rounded in my knowledge,” says Warren. “Ultimately, what I want is a treatment plant on my property, where pumpers can come dump their trucks for a reasonable price. Right now, I have to drive round-trip 1 1/2 hours (to Birmingham) to empty my truck … and they charge a lot.”
Right now, Warren’s only truck is a 2008 Ford F-750 with a 2,000-gallon aluminum tank with a Moro M80A pump from Progress Tank. She has 12 PolyPortables restrooms.
It’s a tough job, Warren admits, especially as the sole employee. “It about kills me,” she admits, “But I’m used to it. I was brought up to work. I’ve got a job to do, and I can’t rely on anyone else.”
Following her grandfather’s disciplined work ethic is important to Warren. She even still has the 1998 Ford F-800 with a 1,500-gallon steel tank her grandfather started the business with. She uses it now just as a backup.
“There is no way that I will ever close the business doors. He (grandfather George Sisson) deserves for me not to do that, he was such an amazing man. My quality of work will always match his. I owe my grandfather that respect and drive.”
It seems almost hard to believe that Warren has time to stop, eat and sleep, much less do anything else. But she knows how to work hard and play hard, especially when it comes to her passions for singing and acting.
“I love music,” says Warren, who sings alto in her church choir, something she has done since she was a child. “I’ve been singing since I could speak. I got involved in our local community theater, the Pell City Players. We just did an original play about Hank Williams Sr. It was pretty amazing.”
The theater troupe performs locally, but will also begin taking some shows on the road. “It’s opened up a whole different world for us,” says Warren.
Warren also performed in the local St. Clair County’s Got Talent competition. “I didn’t win, but I sure did have fun doing it,” she admits.
“I get lost in music,” says Warren, who is advancing her love of music by taking piano lessons. “God gave it to us … it makes everything in the world OK. It makes all the stress of owning a business by myself, as a woman, worth it.”
Another extracurricular activity that helps her business and enriches her personal life is her membership in local organizations, such as the Pell City Chamber of Commerce, the downtown revitalization committee and a Christian women’s professional group. In the latter, Warren says she meets other local female entrepreneurs and they boost each other’s confidence.
“We pray, we laugh, we cry, we support each other,” she says. “We help other women who are having hard times. When I have to work and can’t break free to go to the (weekly) luncheon, I feel it. I definitely need the encouragement.”
PELL CITY BOOSTER
Warren is also proud to be the town’s only blue-collar worker on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. “I was voted on by my peers to represent business,” she says. “Everything’s always geared around getting bigger businesses, but the small-business owner now has a voice.”
Since she knows the community and the people in it so well, Warren is vested in Pell City’s future as well as preserving its past. With lots of vacant buildings downtown, a revitalization committee is working to refresh the area.
“A lot of small businesses have gone out of business, but people are opening up little retail shops, clothing boutiques,” she says. “We’re just trying to revitalize the downtown.” That includes cleaning up the sidewalks and streets, recruiting and supporting new business ventures and working to preserve historical buildings.
“We have so much talent in Pell City,” she says. “The people are hungry to start businesses. We’re trying to make sure we can support them and remind the city that these small shops are here.”
Revitalization also means honoring the past, Warren reminds folks. “Sometimes you forget about the history of the area,” she says, referring to Pell City’s history as a mining town. “We almost became a ghost town,” she says, adding that when the mining industry declined, cotton mills were built, essentially saving the town.
Warren has also taken a keen interest in the Pell City Cemetery, the town’s first graveyard, which dates to the 1800s and has been lost to history and to many local families. “I don’t think they kept very good records. I guess the city kind of forgot about it,” she says. Warren learned through research that her great-grandfather and great-grandmother are buried there.
“If you drove past it, you would never know there’s a cemetery there … but it’s beautiful,” she says of the plot of land peppered with mostly unmarked graves. Warren hopes to purchase the property and restore it to its beauty, to earn the respect it deserves as the town’s first resting place.
BACK TO WORK
But first, in addition to all these projects on her plate, Warren is looking to buy a new vacuum truck. “There are so many possibilities for growth. I would like to have at least two to four trucks in my fleet and be able to compete with the industrial players,” she says.
For now, however, she’s quite busy enough — both on the job and off. However, Warren isn’t looking to slow down, continuing to learn and “do” are her priorities.
“I love to learn. I love doing, I love being active. I can’t sit still very often,” she says. “How do you know what life really is if you’re not willing to put yourself out there?”