Public Works direc­tor leav­ing

Of­fi­cial in charge of snow and garbage re­moval spent tough decade in job

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY AARON C. DAVIS aaron.davis@wash­ Michael Laris con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.

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