BETHESDA - The village of Bethesda and the Ohio Valley have lost a great man.
Bethesda Police Chief Tim Zdanski died Thursday night from complications with a cardiac arrest he suffered earlier in the week.
Zdanski was in charge of the Bethesda Police Department for the last 37 years, taking over on July 1, 1975.
"It's a big shock. It doesn't seem real to us at this point," said Bethesda Mayor Martin Lucas. "The devotion that man had toward his family and community, words just can't describe it. He devoted his career for 37 years to the community - that just goes to show his devotion and commitment to law enforcement and others. My thoughts and sympathy are with his family and the community at this time."
Commenting on Zdanski's death, former Councilwoman and former Mayor Judy Jenewein said, "This is a rough month. I've worked with him since 1975. We were having a difficult time with our police department (when she was on council), and he was just 21 when he applied for the job. I was skeptical - that's really young. We'd been having a lot of trouble with the police department, and I just wasn't sure that was the direction, we needed to go.
"Some other members of council, particularly Ray Oden, supported him and thought he'd be fine. Obviously, Ray was right and I was wrong."
"He (Zdanski) took a nonexistent police department and turned it into a first-class organization," said Jenewein, who had worked with him as a councilwoman, mayor and Park Board member.
Postings on the Belmont County Sheriff Department's Facebook page updating Zdanski's condition and eventual passage received outpourings of support and sadness at his loss. He was described as an upstanding man of the law of the community.
Many could not believe he was gone while others spoke about how Zdanski had helped them out throughout his life.
Throughout his career, Zdanski championed the cause of protecting the children.
He was the driving force behind the initiation of the S.P.I.I. (Sexual Predator Internet Initiative) Task Force which originated out of the Bethesda Police Department.
His goal was to keep kids safe. But that goal wasn't limited to S.P.I.I.
Zdanski worked with the local schools to educate kids of the dangers found online, both through the use of computers and cell phones.
He was named the Belmont County Police Chief of the Year in 2006, and his department was recognized as Child Advocate of the Year in 2008.
Hughes may be reached at mhughes at timesleaderonline.com.