WILKES-BARRE — Former Luzerne County Sheriff Carl Zawatski who died last week was remembered for his professionalism by people who worked with him.
Zawatski, 79, a Democrat, served as elected sheriff from 1996 to 2000. He was hired as chief deputy in 2008 and retired from the position in 2011. He died at home on Thursday.
It was in his deputy role that former Commissioner Steve Urban worked with him.
“Carl was like a rock over there,” Urban said Sunday night.
They ended their roles in county government around the same time, he said. Zawatski retired and the commissioners were replaced when the home rule charter took effect in 2012. Urban had been a longtime Republican, but switched to Democrat.
Urban recalled Zawatski as accessible, knowledgeable and professional.
“Carl was one you could pick up the phone and work with. He was always there to lend a hand,” Urban said.
“Carl loved and respected the uniform,” he said, adding his condolences to the family.
Zawatski’s term as sheriff was not without controversy.
He was under investigation for a car crash allegedly involving his daughter Heather, a deputy sheriff, when he ran for reelection in 1999.Zawatski said he, not is daughter, was behind the wheel of the car that crashed in Wilkes-Barre while avoiding a dog. There were no charges filed, but the crash likely cost Zawatski the election won by Republican challenger Barry Stankus.
When he was appointed sheriff in 2010, John Gilligan, a Democrat, chose Zawatski as his chief deputy.
They had worked together in law enforcement and had known each other for 40 years, Gilligan said. Gilligan was the police chief of Wyoming and Zawatski had been with the Plains Township Police Department.
“I picked him because he’s a man of high moral standards and he had great integrity,” Gilligan said. “He commanded respect, but he gave respect.”
Gilligan said Zawatski had been ill at the time of his death.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Gilligan said.
See the obituary on Page 6A