Christopher Belleman is resigning from his new job as Luzerne County operational services division head to become overseer of the Wyoming Valley Levee.
The levee management position — county Flood Protection Authority executive director — has been vacant since Jim Brozena retired in January.
Belleman, 58, of Kingston, started working in the county as an assistant engineer in 2007 and was promoted to operational services division head on July 9.
County Manager Robert Lawton said he will be seeking proposals from professional recruiters to find applicants for two other vacant division head positions — human services and budget/finance — and will add the operational services position to the recruitment list.
Home rule created eight division head posts. Budget and financial division head Richard Cardamone also left after weeks on the job to accept another position outside the area.
Belleman will report to the independent five-member Flood Protection Authority — not the county manager — in the new authority executive director position. Authority Chairman Stephen A. Urban, a county councilman, offered the position to Belleman on July 29 at a salary of $75,000, which is the same amount Belleman is making as a division head.
Belleman said Monday his decision to accept the authority position is no reflection on council or the manager. He said he interviewed for the flood position in March and believes that job “best suits” his professional and community interests.
“With respect to the protection of the public and property from flood damage, it is my opinion that the executive director position is arguably one of the more important vacancies in the county that needs to be filled immediately,” Belleman said in an email to council.
The Susquehanna River is one of the most flood-prone waterways in the country, and the 15-mile Wyoming Valley Levee is among the largest flood control systems nationwide, he said.
Necessary flood maintenance projects and mitigation activities have been delayed since Brozena retired, he said. The need for a levee engineer became more pressing in May when former county chief engineer Joe Gibbons, who also had a firm grasp of the levee’s inner workings, left to take a position outside the region.
“In the interests of public safety these projects need to move forward and not continue to lag,” Belleman told council. “It is with this sense of duty that impels me to fill the vacancy created by Mr. Brozena’s retirement to become the new executive director of the Flood Protection Authority.”
Belleman, who has 30 years of civil engineering experience, said he will stop work as division head Sept. 20 and begin as authority executive director on Sept. 23. He said he will continue to provide engineering assistance to the county as needed.
The operational services division head oversees engineering, roads and bridges, recreation, environmental projects, planning and zoning, 911, emergency management, buildings and grounds and security. Lawton said he is close to selecting an engineer to fill Gibbons’ position.