Growing the PHCC and creating a more active membership is the goal; Hunter Botto is excited to handle the new normal with the great leadership already in place.
As he answered the phone sitting on his sailboat docked in Florida, I got a sense early in our conversation that Hunter Botto was going to be okay as the new Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors—National Association (PHCC) president, even in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Able to navigate adversity, this relaxed, chill semi-retired, former Navy vet and licensed boat captain—when not handling PHCC issues—enjoys his spare time sailing.
Nobody could have foreseen what 2020 would bring, and it just so happened that it was Hunter’s time to lead throughout this mess as the new PHCC president. “We as contractors face many challenges every day. The list is as long as a city mile but we have thick skin and can handle the task at hand,” says Botto. “This was not the plan—to be a leader during a pandemic but we have a job to do. The great staff at PHCC has adapted and has kept the ball moving. It’s like we move ahead or get out of the way—we are moving ahead! Our members are ready; they are being trained to the new normal and they are thinking outside the box to adhere to the new normal.”
Botto’s family business has been around since the early 1930s as his grandfather and his grandfather’s brother— Irwin and Robert Botto—ran a hardware business, which morphed into Botto Hardware and Plumbing & Heating, a combination of plumbing, heating, hardware and appliance business. In 1950, Botto’s father, Richard, and his cousin, Irv, started Botto Brothers Plumbing & Heating, Hicksville, N.Y., and ran that successful business until the early 1960s, when the two partners decided to split. Richard continued the legacy of Botto Brothers Plumbing & Heating while Irv formed Botto Mechanical in 1963.
In 1980, Hunter joined his father at Botto Brothers. Prior to joining, Hunter was a boiler technician in the United States Navy. “My brother Roger and I purchased the business together in 1993 and we operated the business well into the 2000s. I am happily semi-retired, and in 2015, Roger introduced his oldest son, Christopher, into the business, where it is still owned and operated today.”
The introduction into the trades started at an early age for Hunter. His great uncle was one of the first master plumbers in our township and he learned a great deal from his work ethic and technical savvy. Hunter always looked up to him as he was not only a master plumber but a skilled craftsman. “Going to work with my dad at the early age of 11 was expected and I got into doing what helpers were expected to do every day—digging trenches, being a ‘gofer,’ cutting pipe, installing boilers, bathroom renovation, and doing clean-up after the jobs were done. My time in the Navy was a vacation from the family business,” says Botto.
While working for the family business, Hunter’s dad retired and Hunter took over but he had no idea how to run the business side of things. “Believe me when I say this, PHCC saved my life. I was tired of competing with unlicensed contractors, utility issues, code issues, antiquated licensing issues, and poor business-minded contractors. PHCC helped me with these issues, and I have been associated with PHCC for the past 23 years, and they have treated me well and helped me run the business,” says Botto.
“Over the years, the local PHCC president, Richard English, asked me to attend a local meeting to help him create a new, younger vision for the industry. With a father and grandfather in the industry, Richard came from the same mold as I did, and he had a vision to get younger professionals involved. Our goal was to ‘raise the bar’ on Long Island,” says Botto.
After years of struggling, Hunter finally joined PHCC and got quickly involved in focusing on licensing issues with in our county. He climbed up the leadership chairs of our local PHCC, while finding new talent with the same vision in promoting professionalism. Hunter got involved as local president, attending state conventions, national conventions and meeting the leaders of this great organization. Hunter was asked by PHCC Past President Kevin Tindall to become a zone director, “which was one of the most exciting assignments he ever had in PHCC, well, until now, of course,” says Botto.
Through the years, Hunter has served on many committees, attending legislative conferences, and meeting people in the know, all while running a 60-year-old family business. “So here I am on the precipice of becoming the president of the oldest, most prestigious and most professional trade organization in the United States. I truly have been blessed and I look forward to the challenges at hand—just like any other day at the office like so many PHCC contractors do every day,” says Botto.
But today is an unprecedented time. Teamwork will get it done, believes Botto. “Working with a greatly trained team gets the job done, bottom line. All of our state and local associations are the backbone of our association,” says Botto.
As Botto sets his sights on the future, he says membership is key. “Strength in numbers makes us the most respected trade association, but making the industry aware and seeking new leaders is a major goal,” says Botto.
“We need to bring in younger industry voices and show them the benefits of PHCC. With the new technology available to all of us, it is PHCC’s responsibility to get the word out and get professionals involved. Workforce development is also at the top of our list, and as the pandemic has created barriers, our online apprenticeship program is in full swing and growing every day,” says Botto.
Botto’s message is clear. “I have always been committed to this industry as it has allowed me to raise a family, give back to the community and grow younger professionals. My message to all PHCC members is to give back to the industry that has given so much to us.”