After graduating from Bucknell University with a degree in Environmental Activism, he got a job with the federal government in the Office of Resource Recovery. He was a dedicated environmental activist and went into government service to fight for sound environmental policy.
While he was working at that job, he had a brush with organized crime that changed the course of his life. He told Heavy the story in an exclusive interview this week.
One of Hertzler’s main projects with the Office of Resource Recovery was tracking the recycling of computer cards. The cards were resold to fund environmental projects for the government. While working on that project, Hertzler claimed he discovered that the computer cards weren’t being recycled and resold.
He said that he began an investigation that involved riding on garbage trucks during the overnight shift to see why the bales of specialized computer paper used for the cards weren’t being picked up and brought in for resale. Hertzler told Heavy that he found out the contract for this specific type of recycling was held by a different company than the rest of the waste management in Washington D.C.
However, when Hertzler dug into the paperwork, he said he couldn’t find the contract in question. Confounded, he reached out to the General Accounting Office and asked them to conduct an audit of the resource recovery program and the agencies involved.
Hertzler told Heavy that a few weeks after he requested the audit, one of his supervisors came into his office to have a chat. He asked if Hertzler had requested an audit of the resource recovery program. Hertzler responded that he had.
“He closes the door to my office, which was a cubicle, and he says ‘There’s not gonna be an audit.’ And I said, ‘Yeah I called it in… I just confirmed it.’ He said, ‘John. There’s not going to be an audit… because it’s connected.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? Connected to what?’ I was 23 and I was an idiot… The whole time he’s doing this ‘It’s connected!’ And I said, ‘Oh. Oh. Oh!’ I remember going through those three ‘Ohs.’ And then he left. And there wasn’t an audit.”
Hertzler explained that the waste management contract he’d been told about was with “organized crime.” He claimed that all the government agencies involved in the resource recovery program were working with the D.C. mob families.
An Existential Crisis
After Hertzler found out about the true nature of his job, he had a bit of an existential crisis.
“I rented a canoe and went out to the Potomac River, which is right down the hill. I went out in the middle of the river, and I said to myself, ‘John, if organized crime is working with the FBI building in the middle of D.C. how are you ever going to be able to accomplish anything?’ So, that’s when I turned to acting.”
Hertzler went on to say that to his knowledge there’s still never been an audit of the wastepaper management system in D.C.
After his existential crisis, Hertzler dropped out of grad school and law school, which he was doing in addition to his federal job, so he could be in a community theater production. He started acting all over D.C. then moved to New York to pursue a real career in acting. From there, he headed to L.A., and the rest, as they say, is history.
This story and more vignettes from Hertzler’s truly wild life will be included in his upcoming memoir, “Confessions of a Klingon Linebacker.”