City needs better process with this administrative change

When John J. Grado retires as Williamsport’s engineer and director of community and economic development next year, he will leave behind big shoes to fill. In fact, it will take two pairs of shoes, according to Mayor Gabriel J. Campana. The mayor plans to replace Grado with an engineer headquartered in the city Public Works Building at 1550 W. Third St. as part of what will be a renamed Public Works Department. Additionally, the city will need to hire a professional planner, which will be part of the community development department operating out of City Hall. Grado, who will retire with 39 years of service at a salary of $88,000, has been filling both those roles for the city. Council Vice President Randall J. Allison, acknowledging the excellence of Grado’s public service, said: “We’re not going to find someone with his experience. We realize we will need two people to take his place, one a straight-up engineer.” City Council has final say in the ordinance change that would be required for these administrative changes and it’s hard to disagree with Allison’s comments. But the people recruited for these roles won’t be John Grado on Day One. So they should not be paid that way. They will get the opportunity to grow into excellence. And people of excellence retire every day in the private sector and businesses attempt first to look at ways to streamline administration and shuffle roles and responsibilities to provide the same level of service with fewer administrators. This is not to demean any of Mr. Grado’s work, but council and the administration have a responsibility to consider that path first before moving in the direction the mayor is planning. The city is just untangling a messy, expensive administrative maneuver enacted when the former police chief “retired.” We expect the administration and council to work together to do a better job with this transition. That doesn’t mean what the mayor is proposing might not be the ultimate best direction to go. But that conclusion should be reached following a full examination of all possible moves, with an eye toward limiting the city’s administrative expenses.