The Company Man

When Lehigh Riles The Public, Roush Takes The Heat

October 20, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

When David H. Roush became plant manager at Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Union Bridge, he expected to spend his days absorbed in cement.

He didn't expect to be mired in controversy.

"I guess it's lucky I'm not a shy person," said Roush, 48, who lives in Westminster with his wife and two teen-age children.

As thetop plant official, Roush has been called upon to be the face behindthe Lehigh name in Carroll County. When he stands before not-so-happy crowds at public hearings or talks with county officials, he is Lehigh, the county's 18th largest employer.

He didn't ask for the public role, but he has accepted it and become adept at it.

"Over thepast few years, a lot of public responsibilities have developed thatweren't here when I first took the job," Roush said.

In that period, Lehigh has sought county and state permission to dig a new quarryin New Windsor and has asked the state for approval to burn non-hazardous and hazardous wastes as fuels.

"Those things have sort of catapulted the company more into the public light, and it's a time whencompanies can't just lie back and be low profile," he said. "They have to be active in the community and promote bonds with their community."

Born in Alexandria, Va., Roush was raised in Rockville, Montgomery County, where his mother still lives.

He has spent his career with Lehigh. After earning a chemical engineering degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., in 1964, he went to work at the cement company's corporate headquarters in Allentown, Pa.

He met his wife, Dee, in college. They've been married 27 years and have two children -- Carolyn, 17, and David Jr., 15. They live with a cat and a dogin a subdivision in a brick house with a view of rolling hills.

Roush likes rock 'n' roll; Elvis, Little Richard and the Beach Boys are part of his compact disc collection. He's also an Orioles fan and an avid reader, Dee Roush said.

He listens to books on tape during his daily commute and carries Time magazine in his back pocket if he thinks he'll have a few spare moments to read.

He plays bridge andattends all their children's sporting and school events, she said.

He's not one for chatting, though, she said.

"He doesn't talk just to talk," Dee Roush said. "He doesn't have a lot of light conversation."

In the mid-1960s, the company sent him to a plant in Miami for three months, then transferred him to Mason City, Iowa, where he worked from 1965 to 1977 as a process engineer, maintenance engineer and finally maintenance manager.

His work there was interrupted in1966, when he was drafted to serve two years in the Army Chemical Corps at the Edgewood Arsenal in Harford County.

In November 1977, he came to Union Bridge as a production engineer. In January 1980, he was promoted to assistant plant manager, and five years later, plant manager.

He calls himself a company man: "Loyalty is one of the things I do best."

His wife said he's devoted to his job.

"He takes commitment very seriously," she said. "Dave's had a lot of frustrations with his job. You'd have to love it to continue."

David Duree, a founding member of the New Windsor citizens group NEWCAP, has dealt with Roush and Lehigh for about four years. Duree's property is adjacent to Lehigh's, just outside New Windsor, where the company wants to dig a new quarry.

"He's a very strong, loyal company man," Duree said. "And that clouds his perceptions."

Duree said Roush and Lehigh haven't always taken advantage of opportunities to work with citizens who have concerns about possible damage to their properties as a result of the new quarry.

"They (Lehigh) truly need to be a good neighbor and sit down and talk to folks," Duree said.

Roush said that whenever the company plans a new project, such as the New Windsor quarry or the burning of alternative fuels, he has gone to Town Council meetings to explain the plans to residents. He said he tries to answer all questions the residents ask. "We're quite accessible andwilling to talk," he said.

Company officials give about 15 tours of the plant a year to residents, public officials and the media, Roush said.

He said he tries not to take criticism of the company personally.

"I know philosophically and academically that the criticism isn't toward me," he said. "But I'm very much wrapped up in my work and this company, and I like it. I like what I'm doing very much. Iwouldn't give it up for a minute.

"But that creates an emotional response that isn't always in tune with the academic response."

Jeffry H. Brozyna, vice president and general counsel at Lehigh's corporate headquarters, said Roush is given the freedom to run the plant as he sees fit.

"We don't try to micromanage plants," he said. "Dave has a great deal of flexibility."

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