Chad Pregracke packed Wednesday for a quick trip to Los Angeles after pulling a houseboat out of the Mississippi River in the wee hours of the morning.
His demanding schedule shows why the Living Lands & Waters founder was voted Mitchum’s “Hardest Working Person in America,” though he demurred on the title.
“I don’t claim to be that. I really don’t. I’m honored that I’m one of many,” he said in his rapid-fire style. “Roofers who own their own businesses, or guys who do drywall, or work at a hog plant — those guys work super hard.
“I just found out and never expected to win,” he said as he threw a white T-shirt and a roll of Mitchum deodorant into a bag.
He may be the hardest-working ballot stuffer, getting nearly 50,000 of the almost 100,000 votes cast in online voting. Asked about the election results, he pointed to three factors:
“Mike Rowe’s support right off the bat with his notoriety definitely helped,” he said of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” host who introduced his nomination video. “Two, I think the video was put together very well.
“Three, all the people I’ve met over the years — we’ve had over 70,000 volunteers come out for river cleanups,” he said. “That brought people to know what type of work I do, and what kind of work we do.”
The “hardest-working” title comes with a $100,000 grand prize from the deodorant company, plus an additional $5,000 for receiving the most votes in the first round of the contest.
Pregracke, an East Moline native, said he plans to spread the money around, giving some to Living Lands & Waters, to one of the schools he attended growing up, to United Way and to the 11 hard-working people in his organization who share his passion.
“The main thing is I got the attention, but it is the people I work with on a daily basis,” he said. “I’ll give them a bonus.”
Pregracke and others will be featured, along with other hard-working Americans, in a short film by documentary filmmakers Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan. The film is scheduled to premiere this fall on the Sundance Channel.
“Capturing Chad’s work on the river, doing the job he loves and we admire, will be an important and inspiring story to tell,” Maysles said.
The filmmakers are expected to spend a few days with the crew, following their work.
Pregracke plans to be back in the Quad-Cities in time for this weekend’s River Roots Live music and ribs festival at LeClaire Park in Davenport. Then his schedule kicks up again, with a river conference planned next week, getting the cleanup barge unloaded and sailing down to St. Louis to get a new crane for the barge.