Get to Know
Director of Public Works (DPW)
Dar Baas, Director of Public Works (DPW), has been with the County since 2014, but this is actually his second time working for Kent County. From 2004-2007, he worked in the County Administrator’s office as a Management Analyst. “The significant projects I worked on were Millennium Park as an environmental project manager; purchase of development rights; the medical examiner facility study; and creation of the central dispatch authority,” Dar says. He moved to the private sector for six years as a general and division manager for two environmental companies. In 2014, as DPW was going through a leadership transition as five director-level staff members announced they would be retiring over a three-year period, Dar decided it was time to return to the County and share his 20 years of environmental experience and the DPW’s history of operating an integrated solid waste management system. He was hired as a division director and a year later became director.
Dar is a West Michigan native who grew up in Georgetown Township in Ottawa County. “In the late 50’s my parents moved from a farming community in northern Michigan (Lake City area) like so many were doing post-WWII. My father and uncle were building contractors and I was swinging a hammer by age ten, although I ultimately took a different career path,” Dar says. “I have four siblings, all of whom live in West Michigan as well. I received my bachelor’s degree in business management from Davenport University and I have a master’s degree in public administration from GVSU.” Incredibly, Dar is only the fourth director in the department’s history. He had the opportunity to either meet or work with the previous three directors, which speaks to the stability and credibility that DPW brings to its work.
Right now, the market for recycling is difficult; Dar says it’s one of DPW’s biggest challenges. “Global pricing for recyclable commodities, caused in large part by the disruption of China imports of recyclable materials, is having a significant impact on how we collect, process, broker and monetize value from these commodities to support Recycling & Education Center operations. We (Kent County, West Michigan and the entire country) are literally choking on low value plastics,” Dar says. “As we work through how best to capture the fuel, energy or commodity values of post-consumer plastics and not send this material to landfills, we will need private-public collaboration to find the right mix of utilization and conversion technologies to fix this problem.” Another challenge is the Waste-to-Energy facility, which is currently over capacity. DPW staff are looking at options to increase the processing capacity and commissioning a feasibility study to look at the best expansion options.
Dar is proud of his staff and the work they complete on a daily basis. “Several years ago, the Board of Public Works adopted a vision enabling the Department of Public Works to pursue sustainable materials management strategies, including the 20x’20/90x’30 plan where Kent County will redirect municipal solid waste to various processing facilities, thereby reducing what is sent to landfills by 90% by the year 2030. The Sustainable Business Park master plan process was undertaken to explore alternative processing technologies including composting, anaerobic digestion, bio-fuels, and construction and demolition debris processing,” he beams. “We’re also wrapping up the installation of new, interactive recycling exhibits at the Recycling and Education center that are truly ‘museum quality’ to provide a thought provoking experience for all ages as we educate and encourage the community to improve its efforts to recycle. Having the opportunity to share what happens to trash after ‘it goes away’ at the curb… to engage residents, business and municipal leaders on new solutions and a long-term strategy for a 21st Century Sustainable Materials Management is incredibly rewarding.”
Dar is the proud dad to three sons: Jared, 18; Nathan, 20; and Michael, 22. Mike played Division III hockey for Davenport University. The two oldest followed in their grandfather’s footsteps in the trades and both are working toward their journeyman credentials as plumbers. “My youngest is a sophomore and an engineering major at GVSU,” Dar says. “Now an empty nester, I reside in Cannon Township with a crazy Australian Cattle dog named Mya where I enjoy living in a log home.”