Sussex retirees will have lasting legacy

April 5, 2024

Two high-profile Sussex County officials, County Engineer Hans Medlarz and Emergency Operations Center Director Joe Thomas, recently retired.

Both men were widely respected as forward-thinking leaders, and their work will leave a lasting legacy benefiting county residents for years.

Medlarz was hired by the county in 2015. As an engineer, he’s worked for six decades in the public and private sectors. With his leadership and vision over the past nine years, the county has been on the cutting edge of new technology and environmental stewardship.

Thousands of customers have been added to county sewer districts, and thousands of home septic systems have been eliminated as potential pollution sources. He initiated multimillion-dollar upgrades and expansions to the county’s four wastewater treatment facilities, including the new Western Sussex Sewer District. Medlarz helped establish collaborations with Lewes Board of Public Works and Rehoboth Beach to expand the county’s capabilities while bolstering sewer treatment in the two cities. He has overseen plans to convert the Wolfe Neck wastewater treatment plant from spray irrigation to spray-drip irrigation on a reforested area, paving the way for returning land to Cape Henlopen State Park. He also led a project to supply Ellendale with its first water system. 

Joe Thomas, who worked for the county for 38 years, serving as EOC director for 27, brought its agencies into the 21st century with state-of-the-art emergency and dispatch technology and processes. He quickly became one of the most knowledgeable and respected emergency officials in the state.

Under his direction, the county instituted 911 system enhancements including text-to-911 and Smart 911 service. Thomas led the way to obtaining triple international accreditation as a fire, police and medical dispatch center of excellence, placing Sussex County among the top operations in the country.

While supervising a team of 40 dispatchers and support staff, his role as emergency operations manager put him front and center in coordinating emergency response to major storms for nearly three decades. Thomas was also an instrumental member of the team coordinating construction of the new $12 million Sussex County Emergency Operations Complex, which opened in October 2023.

  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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