SANTA ANA — Murry L. Cable, the No. 2 person in the county administrative office, has been named to replace the retiring chief of the county's waste management services, officials said Tuesday.
Frank R. Bowerman, 69, is retiring at the end of June as director of the county's Integrated Waste Management Department after earning a national reputation as a pioneer in landfills and waste technology.
"Frank is the original," said H. Lanier Hickman, executive director of the Solid Waste Management Assn. of North America, a nonprofit advisory group. "He's one of the godfathers of the whole system."
His retirement was a surprise to some in the county. Bowerman himself had said in an interview earlier this year that he wanted to stay on the job "another five years" and then pursue work in engineering consulting. He could not be reached for comment late Tuesday on his retirement.
Bowerman gave the county his notice of retirement earlier this month, officials said. In an unusually quick turnaround, County Administrative Officer Ernie Schneider named Cable to fill the post within a few days after consulting individually with members of the Board of Supervisors last week, officials said.
"It sounded good to me," Roger R. Stanton, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said of Cable's appointment.
Cable, 45, said that after working with city managers around the county for the last year on waste management issues, he looks forward to the new job.
"It's an area that has a lot of challenges and is very exciting, so I asked to be considered for it," Cable said.
Until Bowerman retires in two months, Cable will work with him in a transition period, then take over the 320-member agency. "I'm very fortunate to have Frank around for a couple of months," Cable said.
Cable, the assistant county administrative officer since 1985, served previously in positions overseeing John Wayne Airport and the county staff at UCI Medical Center.
"Murry's good at that kind of thing when it's a single-project issue," Stanton said. "That's the kind of thing that's his forte."
Cable's appointment comes at a time when the county is facing perhaps the toughest decade for garbage collection in its history because local landfills are filling up and recycling mandates are forcing higher fees for residents.
Cable said his first priority in waste management will be to "stabilize" garbage rates for local cities "so the system won't break down."
He said he also wants to avoid a repeat of last year's local garbage crisis, in which finances for running the system were thrown out of whack when one of the biggest local haulers temporarily pulled out of the county's landfills. He brings to the job a reputation for an aggressive, often blunt approach to problem-solving.