The new leader of the Pittsburgh office of the Pennsylvania Resources Council is a native of the area who left and then found "1,001 reasons" to return.
Justin Stockdale, 42, a native of South Park, is replacing Dave Mazza, who is retiring after 14 years.
Mr. Stockdale left the area to attend the University of Maryland and for past 20 years has worked for local governments and nonprofits in Washington, Colorado and New Mexico, spending the past 13 years in Santa Fe.
Schools, family and the new job are his top three reasons for returning, he said, adding, "Inverse to Pittsburgh, Santa Fe is not the best place to raise a family."
He managed New Mexico's first single-stream recycling facility, developed and managed household chemical collections, oversaw the New Mexico Recycling Coalition, and obtained a $2.8 million federal stimulus grant for recycling in underserved areas. In 2006, he started a consulting business to help municipalities in New Mexico with waste diversion.
Mr. Stockdale "brings an extensive knowledge of the waste reduction and recycling business," said Dee Alwine, the council's board president. "He has a keen understanding of nonprofit operations and the ability to build essential stakeholder relationships that will allow PRC to continue our successful programs and solutions in the Pittsburgh area."
Mr. Stockdale, who was named New Mexico's Recycler of the Year for 2008, began his transition to the PRC at the beginning of December, working with Mr. Mazza in his last month there. Mr. Mazza could not be reached for an interview for this story.
"Dave has built a fantastic program and a really strong foundation for recycling and waste diversion in Western Pennsylvania," Mr. Stockdale said.
Mr. Mazza initiated and collaborated on a range of projects, including a Zero Waste campaign for residential, commercial and municipal entities; several annual collections of household chemicals and hard-to-recycle items; annual drug collections with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and a "Let's Tackle Recycling" campaign among tailgaters at Steelers home games.
Those efforts diverted about 3.5 million pounds of chemicals from landfills, according to the PRC.
Public response has grown from dozens to thousands of cars bringing unused paint, household chemicals, electronic equipment, batteries, drugs, tires and other waste that can be recycled but is not accepted in the city's curbside service.
In an interview near the end of his tenure, Mr. Mazza talked passionately about the epidemic of wasted pharmaceuticals, drugs that are getting flushed into water supplies or brought to collection events.
Many of the drugs would have been useful to someone else but are not legally transferable.
"There is someone out there who doesn't have health insurance who needs these, and they're destroyed," Mr. Mazza said of the medicines. "We have people who bring shopping bags full of pills."
After coordinating recycling for the city in the 1990s, Mr. Mazza stepped into the job at the PRC and in his first year helped the fledgling social enterprise Construction Junction get on its feet under the 62nd Street bridge in Lawrenceville. It began the year before as a deep-discount retail nonprofit to keep building materials out of landfills. Construction Junction has since grown as the hub on a campus of environmental nonprofits in North Point Breeze.
It hit its $1 million sales mark in 2008 and is closing in on its best year ever, said executive director Mike Gable, a PRC board member.
"Dave's an innovator who responds effectively to the people who want to live more environmentally," said Mr. Gable, who teamed up with Mr. Mazza on early hard-to-recycle events at the store.
"He created opportunities for people to live out those values. He doesn't want to make a big deal about it, but he has done some incredible work for the city of Pittsburgh. He's going to be missed."
"Dave leaves a legacy of tremendous accomplishment," said Bob Jondreau, the state director of PRC.
"He leaves us not only a strong foundation but also a blueprint for the future continued success of the western office."
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.