ROSWELL, Ga. — Dan Skalsky’s experiences with pollution in his home state of Ohio helped shape him to become Roswell’s Director of Environmental and Public Works.
Skalsky grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, near the infamous Cuyahoga River, where the waters were known for periodically catching fire because of extreme pollution. The state of the river not only spurred the passage of state and national environmental protection laws, but also sparked a life-long interest in Skalsky.
He has since built a career in environmental and public works that has spanned more than 30 years. Most of that time was spent in private consulting, with a brief stint in Cobb County that gave Skalsky a taste for local government.
As a private consultant, Roswell was one of his clients, and he eventually made the jump in spring 2015 to join the city as its Director of Environmental and Public Works.
He was in part drawn to Roswell because of the river, Skalsky said.
“The Chattahoochee is one of the reasons that Roswell is such a cool place – it’s a river town,” he said. “It’s easier to make the connection between the environment and water supply when you’re right next to it.”
As department head, Skalsky oversees four major divisions: solid waste pickup and recycling, stormwater utility, water utility and fleet services.
One unique aspect of the department is that they can still offer glass recycling while other nearby cities struggle to do the same.
“Our size helps,” Skalsky said. “At 100,000 people, our contractor can find some reuse opportunities for glass... They couldn’t do that for the whole metro area, probably. There just isn’t enough repurposing use out there.”
The city was able to keep glass recycling services by paying an extra fee to the contractor, about $10,000 a month, which was absorbed into the solid waste fund’s total budget of $10 million. Now, residents can still have their glass recycled via curbside pickup or by bringing it to the Roswell Recycling Center.
Skalsky said he is excited about a number of ongoing projects, such as adding more permeable pavers in the city and the completion of the East Alley Project.
The pavers, which look like regular bricks or stones, help control stormwater runoff and flooding. They are porous and both absorb and filter excess water before it ends up in local rivers and lakes.
“We work very closely with the transportation department to introduce permeable pavers in a way that everybody is comfortable and confident with that it will be a long-term good investment,” Skalsky said. “It’s been a push since before I got here, and I’ve been trying to amp it up. It’s one of our top priorities right now.”
The permeable pavers are included in plans for future developments as well, such as the East Alley Project to improve the portion of Canton Street between Elizabeth Way and Norcross Street.
“There’s a lot of behind-the scenes work that go into it,” said Roswell’s Community Relations Manager Julie Brechbill. “Infrastructure is not sexy because you don’t see it, it’s all underground. But it’s extremely important. If it rains a lot and it floods, you know how much it’s needed.”
When Skalsky isn’t working, he can frequently be seen caring for his racing greyhound rescues.
“We just fell in love with one of them,” Skalsky said. “We’ve had probably 13 now. We tend to take the older ones that are harder to adopt out, because we are veterans and animal advocates.”