- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:41
- Published on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:41
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During the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend Westmoreland County Zoning Administrator and Director of Planning Gary Ziegler lost a battle with cancer that predated the land use professional’s arrival in Westmoreland County in August 2005.
County Planning Commission Chairman Rob McDermott officially announced Ziegler’s death at the beginning of this Monday’s Planning Commission meeting.
“I am very sorry to report that Gary Ziegler, who has been battling cancer for quite a few years, passed away during the weekend,” McDermott related to Commissioners and private citizens who had gathered for the December 1 land use session.
“Gary’s efforts had a major impact on bringing Westmoreland County’s land use administration into the 21st Century,” McDermott then stated. “He is going to be very sorely missed.”
Ziegler arrived in Westmoreland County after successfully battling an initial cancer episode in his native Ohio. He brought decades of experience as a land use professional, holding a bachelor’s degree in planning and having additional hands-on experience in the land surveying field.
The Journal met Ziegler in May 2005, when he visited Westmoreland County as an employment candidate. The Supervisors were conducting a closed session associated with Richard Stuart’s decision to resign from the position he held as Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Board had scheduled its interview with Ziegler immediately after the return from the closed-door portion of that special meeting.
Ziegler proved easy to talk to while the reporter and employment candidate waited for the Supervisors to return. He had researched Westmoreland County prior to placing his application and said he would welcome the kind of lifestyle that the rural jurisdiction offered.
Ziegler’s official duties began in August 2005, at a time when Congressman Rob Wittman still served as Chairman of the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors.
Wittman introduced Ziegler to the public during the final minutes of the Board’s August meeting.
That meeting’s land use segment had been dominated by the fiery debate associated with the Board’s eventual approval of a controversial residential subdivision on a portion of the former Monroe family farm.
Strong emotions were expressed as Ziegler quietly compiled a meticulous set of notes. “It was a trial of fire,” Wittman said of the new employee’s August 2005 Board of Supervisors meeting experience.
A succession of issues continued to catch fire throughout Gary Ziegler’s period of service. Boathouses, new zoning and subdivision regulations, creation of a community development authority, sewers and a failed greenway proposal sparked furious debate at public meetings.
Ziegler’s cancer returned during his period of employment and the land use professional enjoyed a second period of remission. The Zoning Administrator and Director of Planning experienced physical difficulties several months ago and the condition worsened.
County Planner Beth McDowell and Land Use employee Charlie Wrightson must now continue Ziegler’s work. There had been no opportunity for members of the local government to make their intentions known concerning future staffing considerations in the local government’s Land Use Office.
Planning Professional Milton Martin previously served as interim Westmoreland County Director of Planning. Martin continued to work as a part-time county employee until May 2008, when the Hopewell resident purportedly retired.
Gary Ziegler’s funeral arrangements had not been published when this edition of The Journal went to press. On Monday the mature land use professional’s contributions were already being missed.