Public Works director leaving
Official in charge of snow and garbage removal spent tough decade in job
The man in charge of almost every city service that D.C. residents have complained about over four mayoral administrations will step down this month.
Public Works Director William O. Howland Jr. said that after 11 years, he is looking forward to a summer free of smelly trash collection, winters without maintaining a fleet of snow plows and, especially, years no longer worrying about the safety of hundreds of city employees in dangerous jobs.
“It’s just time to go,” Howland said after announcing his resignation to members of the D.C. Council late last week. “I’m going to play some golf.”
Howland was known as a survivor in one of the toughest jobs in local government. He was in charge of D.C. snowremoval, trash collection, recycling, towing, parking-ticket writing, graffiti removal and even litter, leaf and dead-animal collection.
The job delivered endless complaints, including perennial second-guessing whenever the city shutdown because of a couple of inches of snow.
Howland also contended with controversies in his final two years. Amid a rollout of new trash bins last year, his department was faulted for throwing away the old ones rather than recycling them, scrapping more than 53 tons of plastic that environmentalists said should have been repurposed.
This past winter, Howland’s department also was forced to take the unprecedented step of calling in private contractors to help clear a pileup of trash. Howland blamed a series of thaws and refreezings that made trash collectors unwilling to drive trucks into icy alleys.
The episode drew unwanted attention to the new administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). She had asked Howland to stay on in the job two months earlier.
Bowser has forced out two agency heads in recent months. A mayoral aide said earlier this year that Howland was moving slowly to introduce new technology in the department.
As pokesman for themayor said Thursday, however, that Howland had decided on his own to resign and pointed to his departure date of June 26 to say he was leaving on his own terms. The two agency heads that Bowser told to leave were removed immediately. Howland said he had “no disagreements whatsoever” with Bowser.
On Saturday, at the annual “Truck Touch” begun under Howland for District children to play on cleaned-up garbage trucks, dump trucks and other city equipment, Howland received a lengthy round of applause from the crowd at Bowser’s urging.
“That raucous applause is an everyday occurrence for Bill at DPW,” Bowser joked. “But it’s certainly special now. ... Bill has served with excellence for four mayors of the District of Columbia. We are very grateful . . . and we wish you the best; best of luck in future endeavors.”
Howland said he looks forward most to not having to make any more calls to families of employees killed or injured on the job.