New director ‘getting a feel for’ OSS solid waste district

FREMONT — During her first few months as the new director of Ottawa Sandusky Seneca Joint Solid Waste District, Kathleen Rocco getting to know people, how the office works and getting settled in the area.

“It’s been fun and interesting and challenging peeling back all the things I need to know,” she said.

Rocco was hired in July to replace Tim Wasserman, who retired in August after serving as director for 20 years.

Since her first day on the job Sept. 9, she’s been “getting a feel for things” in a new section of Ohio, learning about the three counties and getting to know her staff.

“I finished my prior job Sept. 7 and started the following Monday,” she said. “It was crazy.”

Rocco said she has met members of the OSS board of directors, which are the three county commissioners of its three counties, as well as the 20-some members of the policy committee.

In the office, she said she’s been learning how operations have been handled in the past.

“We all do things a little bit differently,” she said. Me, as an educator, operated differently that the part-time education specialists here. It’s about learning what the job duties have become and how they have been evolving.”

She said she’s been learning about local operations from Jim Darr, longtime recycling specialist for the district, and Jaime Coleman, community outreach specialist.

Soon after she arrived, Sandusky County’s computer servers were hacked. The OSS office shares some of Sandusky County’s software, so learning in that area was delayed.

She said the Ottawa County educator decided to move on, so she’s working on finding a new person for that position.

In October, Rocco said she attended the Sunny Farm Landfill open house near Fostoria to become familiar with the landfill and meet personnel.

She said she toured Port Clinton schools’ green buildings.

“That’s a particular interest of mine,” she said. “I like to see that in schools. Ohio is the No. 1 state for green building schools.”

Rocco said she is moving from her previous residence in Lakewood to a house in Port Clinton, which is within walking distance from downtown and which will allow her to take some time to sail on Lake Erie. She said she’ll miss her friends and family in Lakewood, where she worked for 19 years, but for now she continues to drive back and forth between her two houses.

In the meantime, Rocco said she’s been working on a 2020 budget.

“We’ve been trying to figure out where the allocations of money need to go,” she said. “What services people need.

“We want to make efficiencies where we can,” she said. “And decide if we have enough staff.”

She said some OSS services had been trimmed back in recent months before she became director because of financial issues about fees that have since been worked out.

Part of the financial aspect is preparing for a potential major price increase for the Aim 2 B Green program when the contract renews. She said the industry is handling recyclables differently, partially because of food contamination issues.

“Businesses and industries then have to figure out how to continue to provide the service,” she said.

As she continues as director, Rocco said she would like to create an educational PowerPoint presentation about OSS and general recycling information.

She also would like to start a Master Recyclers program for people interested in volunteering, doing litter prevention work or learning about zero-waste. She designed and organized the program in 2013, and managed the group of volunteers.

She said she wants to continue and expand the composting education program.

In her previous job, Rocco served as education specialist since 2000 for Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, Cleveland, where she promoted recycling and educated the public, teachers and students through presentations, materials and publications. She has been a presenter for education, science and environmental conferences throughout Ohio.

She has a master’s degree in environmental science from Miami University and a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Dayton.

In the past, she has been an environmental planner for Cuyahoga County Planning Commission, worked as an assistant camp director in Wilmington, Delaware, and as a naturalist.

Rocco has been active in solid waste organizations for several years.

According to her resume, this year she is president of the Ohio Association of Litter Prevention and Recycling Professionals, and she serves on the Northeast Ohio U.S. Green Building Association’s Green Schools Committee. She also is a member of the Solid Waste Association of North America.

In 2014, she was host chair for the Ohio Association of Litter Prevention and Recycling Professionals conference. In 2015, she was on the speaker committee for a Partner’s Conference; in 2016, on the technical committee for Waste Con; and in, 2017, co-chairwoman of the Partner’s Conference.

She has managed a compost seminar and bin sale program, and provided public presentations on composting as well as managed a Recycling Container Grant for schools, and developed education program budget and maintain educational and camping expenditures for Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District and a camp program.

Rocco has assisted schools and businesses to become more sustainable by training, conducting waste audits and helping them develop recycling programs.

She developed and instructed environmental classes and interpretive hikes at her past solid waste district, two camps, Sterling College and Cleveland Metroparks, and she has facilitated workshops and trained facilitators for Project WILD, WET and Learning Tree, as well as Windows on Waste; Food, Land & People; Leopold Education Project; and Population Connection.