Landfill director resigns post to care for terminally ill father


John T. Zohlen, the deputy director of public works who a year ago took over the county's two troubled landfills, will resign at the end of this week to care for his sick father.

Mr. Zohlen, whose last day with the county is Friday, will return to Wisconsin to be with his father, who is terminally ill, said Lisa Ritter, a public works spokeswoman.

A mechanical engineer with a master's degree in administration, Mr. Zohlen was a Navy captain for 26 years before joining the county's Department of Utilities two years ago as deputy director.

In March 1992, residents around the Millersville Landfill complained to county officials after they were informed that cleaning solvents had been discovered in ground water under the landfill and that the county intended to extend its life 25 years beyond what the residents previously had been told.

Richard Waesche, then head of the Bureau of Solid Waste Management, came under fire for mismanagement of the Millersville facility. In April 1992, County Executive Robert R. Neall, citing a crisis in public confidence, shifted responsibility of both Millersville and Sudley landfills from the Department of Public Works to the Department of Utilities, then headed by Tom Neel.

The next month, Mr. Waesche was relieved of his duties and Mr. Zohlen was appointed to head the Solid Waste Bureau. Under his direction, the county began meeting with an advisory committee formed by Millersville residents to address their concerns about the landfill.

Mr. Zohlen became a deputy director of the Department of Public Works when the Department of Utilities merged into it at the beginning of this month.

George Tabak, a Millersville resident who heads the committee, said citizens still have concerns about landfill operation. But communication between the county and the community has improved in the past year, and he credits Mr. Zohlen for helping to keep channels open.

"He hasn't been a roadblock," Mr. Tabak said. "He's been pleasant. He's given us whatever information we ask for. He's told the landfill operators to give us whatever information when we ask for it."

The county has already begun a search for a replacement with extensive experience in solid waste management, said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Neall.

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