The Village of Dexter has once again looked within for leadership of a key agency with the appointment of Dan Schlaff as superintendent of public services.
Schlaff, 45, a lifelong resident of Dexter, will succeed Ed Lobdell, who retired from the department in 2010, and will oversee the village's public utilities, water and wastewater treatment plants.
"I'm very appreciative of the village leadership's vote of confidence in selecting me for this position," he said.
Schlaff has worked for the village for the past 27 years, four years in the Department of Public Works, and the past 23 years in the water department.
"I started off as a water meter reader and slowly worked my way up through different jobs," he said.
From installing and flushing the village's 300 fire hydrants for the wastewater treatment plant, to digging storm water ditches and tapping water mains, Schlaff has held virtually every position for the Department of Public Works, most recently as a utility foreman under the direction of Lobdell.
"Ed taught me everything I know," Schlaff said. "Taking on the superintendent's role was a really big step for me. The village is always striving to do more with not a lot of people, but somehow we are able to get things done."
Some of the projects the department is currently working on include overseeing the , which includes the installation of a storm sewer, asphalt repavement, curb and gutter construction, and street lighting. In addition, the village's wastewater treatment plant is expected to begin a $3 million upgrade in the fall.
"The wastewater plant upgrade is going to be quiet the undertaking. Most of the equipment is from 1977. The new technology available to help digest sludge will greatly aid in some cost savings for the village," Schlaff said. "Currently we're hauling four times a year 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of sludge, and we can reduce that by 40 percent."
Since accepting the position in June, Schlaff said he has been working nonstop to make sure things are running smoothly in both departments.
"The biggest challenge has been that I have to get five or six tasks done in one day, so I could be working from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at night or later," he said. "A lot of people don't grasp how much goes into making sure water comes out of their faucet when they turn it on, or that they are able to flush their toilet."
He said the department was particurly busy in the immediate aftermath of the .
"Basically we worked around the clock to make sure our residents had safe water," he said. "Thankfully nothing at the water plant was damaged."
Public Works crews also spent evenings loading dumpsters with trash and debris working alongside crews from the City of Chelsea to help clear neighborhoods of potential hazards.
"Sometimes we were out in the affected areas until 5 a.m. the next morning, and then we would have to get up and go to work," he said.
Despite the challenges, he said he is looking forward to many more years with the department.
"The best part of this job is that you are doing something new every day," he said. "I don't like to be bored."
Village Manager Donna Dettling said Schlaff has been a valuable asset to the community.
"Dan is a fantastic person," she said at a recent village council meeting. "I think his unique knowledge that comes from years of working in both the Department of Public Works and the wastewater treatment plant gives him a distinct leadership advantage. He's the right person for the job."
Schlaff lives in Scio Township with his two daughters, who both attend .