Officials move ahead after Lyden’s departure

Published: Tue, August 28, 2012 @ 12:03 a.m.

By Peter H. Milliken


Mahoning County commissioners will consider naming an interim or acting replacement for J. Robert Lyden as sanitary engineer next week, said John A. McNally IV, chairman of the county commissioners.

McNally said supervisors within the sanitary engineer’s office would be able to handle the department’s operations this week after what McNally characterized as Lyden’s resignation late Friday.

“We have not named an acting or an interim director yet. It’ll be a slow week this week, and most of the department heads within the sanitary’s operations should be able to handle things,” McNally said Monday.

After an interim or acting director is appointed, the commissioners will advertise for a new permanent sanitary engineer, McNally said.

Lyden did not use the word “resignation” to describe his departure, which he said was effective as of 4 p.m. Friday.

He characterized his Friday letter to the commissioners as “an acknowledgement of the commissioners’ desire to move in a new direction.”

He added, “I cooperated fully with them in complying with their request.”

Lyden said McNally called him by telephone at 8 p.m. Thursday and told him: “The commissioners are moving in a new direction,” with regard to the sanitary engineer’s position and requested that Lyden turn in his county vehicle by 4 p.m. Friday.

The sanitary engineer is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of, the commissioners.

Lyden characterized McNally’s tone during the phone call as “polite and professional.”

McNally expressed no dissatisfaction with Lyden’s job performance during the phone call, “not a hint,” Lyden recalled.

The county sanitary engineer oversees the water supply system in parts of the county as well as the county’s network of sanitary sewers and sewage treatment plants.

McNally cast the sole dissenting vote late in 2009, when Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti and then-Commissioner David N. Ludt appointed Lyden as sanitary engineer.

This vote followed the unsuccessful run by Lyden’s wife, Mary “Roby” Lyden, against McNally in the 2008 Democratic primary.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time as sanitary engineer. I felt that there were more projects being designed and built than ever before, improving the system throughout the county,” Lyden said.

“I hope my successor is as dedicated to improving the quality of the Mahoning River as I have been,” by advocating removal of low-head industrial dams to restore the river’s natural flow and dredging of industrially contaminated sediment, he said.

Before becoming sanitary engineer, Lyden, 71, of Canfield, was a field engineer in the county sanitary engineering department.

Before that, he maintained a private engineering practice and had served as Youngstown’s assistant commissioner of engineering and water department chief engineer.

“We bought a condo in Fort Lauderdale [Fla.] last summer. My wife spent last winter there, and now I’ll be able to spend the winter with her there,” Lyden said.

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