In 1961, several local officials from southern California started a new association which was called the “Governmental Refuse Collection Disposal Association” (GRCDA).

Their objectives were:

  1. To be the center of scientific and technical excellence in the field of municipal and solid waste management 
  2. To represent the best interests of local governments in decisions made locally and nationally about municipal solid waste management.

The start of the Northern California Gold Rush Chapter began when W. Burnett, Sanitation Superintendent for the City of Bakersfield, sent out a letter to officials in Northern California encouraging them to form a chapter of GRCDA. An informal meeting was held in June 1962 in Merced. Those in attendance were William Burnett (City of Bakersfield), Robert Lawrence (City of San Leandro), Austin Melton (City of Merced), Tom King (City of Hanford), Edward Stepaneck (City of San Diego), Harvey Harris (City of Watsonville) and Clarence Davis (City of Watsonville). After the meeting with the members of the Southern California Chapter (the founding chapter of GRCDA/SWANA) that day, it was decided to move forward and recruit other people associated with solid waste collection and disposal to form the second chapter of GRCDA.

The Northern California Charter was passed at the “First annual State Conference and Seminar” held in Culver City’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium on November 21 and 22, 1963. The proceedings were cut short that first year due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Austin Melton was the first President and Robert Lawrence was the first Secretary/Treasurer. The charter members were Robert Lawrence, Austin Melton, Tom King, Harvey Harris, and Clarence Davis. Bob Lawrence and Tom King went on to become international presidents of GRCDA. Bob Lawrence, who served three terms as president of the association, became known as “Mr. GRCDA.” SWANA’s Robert L. Lawrence Distinguished Service Award and Lawrence Lecture were named in his honor.

Today the Northern California “Gold Rush” chapter has over 360 members and SWANA International has more than 7,700 members and 45 chapters.