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City seeks new public works director

A nationwide search is under way for the new director of Public Works in Suffolk after former director Eric Nielsen retired.

Nielsen worked for the city of Suffolk for just over two decades. He joined the city in 1994.

“Eric Nielsen retired after 24 years of dedicated service to the City of Suffolk and our citizens. We wish him a well-deserved retirement as he enjoys his family, numerous hobbies and love of the water,” Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts stated in an email.

L.J. Hansen was appointed acting director in October. He was the assistant director for the department and has experience as a civil engineer. Hansen started with the city since 2007.

“With the retirement of Eric Nielsen as Director of Public Works, L.J. Hansen has been named the acting director until a new director is hired,” according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink. “L.J. has served as assistant director of Public Works with responsibilities including the supervising of the Refuse, Transit, Roadway Maintenance and Traffic Engineering divisions. Prior to this position, L.J. was responsible for Suffolk’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, the city’s transit system and managing numerous landfill and railway related issues.”

According to Klink, having the assistant director appointed as the interim is not unusual. This move allows for consistency in departmental functions and services while the city looks for a replacement.

The Public Works director manages storm water management, public roadways, refuse collection, snow removal and dealing with regional partners like the Southeastern Public Service Authority, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, among others.

Public Works has a $58 million operating budget and a capital improvements budget of $28 million, and the director will supervise 240 staff members. It is one of the city’s largest departments.

The city is currently advertising and recruiting for the best possible candidate for the position, according to spokesman Tim Kelley. The job will be posted on the city website until it is filled.

The job is also posted on multiple national job search boards.

According to the job posting, the city is looking for a college graduate with almost a decade, at least, of experience in a municipal engineering program administration.

The city is advertising the position with salary range of $96,923 to $168,644.