City engineer has been threading the needle for 35 years

A city engineer, given the nature of the job, is going to get all the complaints and none of the glory.

For that reason, stoic John Grado was probably perfectly suited for 35 years of involvement in the city of Williamsport’s infrastructure.

He has been a city engineer, a streets and parks director and community development director.

He presently carries is the city engineer while transitioning community development duties to someone else.

That will end in early July, when Grado retires. Rebecca Haladay, a civil engineer with a Liberty High School, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Mansfield University background, will take the position of city engineer.

But replacing Grado will not be easy. For 3 1/2 decades, Grado has been managing the city’s aging infrastructure. In that situation, the money available has never matched what is needed to do the work necessary to keep the city viable.

With refreshing steadiness, Grado has been leading tough decisions on priorities in an atmosphere that always has at least a little politics attached. It is inherently a no-win situation. There is always a street overdue for resurfacing, a water or sewer line in decay, or public outcry for a worthy project that there is no funding available for.

People don’t like to be told “wait til next year,” so it takes someone with a thick skin to handle the pushback when that happens.

Grado has been threading the needle between progress that can be afforded and progress that has to be on a plan for future years for a long time.

His successor will be working with him for the next couple months. Our hope is that he leaves with all his lessons securely transferred. They are worth keeping.