Jim Brozena scheduled a final trip to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore on Wednesday to tie up some loose ends and say goodbye to some employees he's worked with during his 33-year Luzerne County government career.
He was greeted by about two dozen Army Corps representatives – including top commander Col. J. Richard Jordan – who presented him with a public service award recognizing his outstanding contributions and teamwork.
They pulled a little fast one on me, said the 56-year-old West Pittston resident, who worked his last day Friday before retiring from county government.
It was a shock. I'm really humbled by what they did, he said, his voice cracking as he recalled it.
Brozena started county employment as a chief draftsman and served as county engineer from 1982 through May 2007, when he accepted a position as executive director of the Flood Protection Authority, which handles management of the Wyoming Valley Levee System and other flood-control projects.
He is retiring to pursue new challenges, he said, but declined to discuss his possible future career plans.
The Army Corps posted an article about Brozena – Baltimore District honors flood authority leader – on its website. Its award cited Brozena's work overseeing the 15-mile Wyoming Valley levee-raising project, its 21 pump stations and a five-county flood mitigation program impacting 53 flood-prone communities along the Susquehanna River.
Col. Jordan was the 12th Army Corps Baltimore District commander whom Brozena has met during his career, he said. He worked with nine Corps project managers since the 1996 groundbreaking for the levee-raising.
Brozena's coworkers presented him Thursday with a cake, decorated with a picture of the River Common recreational area, which was part of the levee-raising project.
His shoes are going to be hard to fill, said Theresa Licata, his executive secretary. I learned a lot from him. He has a wealth of knowledge.
Brozena was suffering from the flu Friday but came into the office to finish organizing files he's leaving behind. He has assigned pending matters to colleagues. It's like any other day, he said. I'm running hard to the finish.
He was very fortunate to work with many citizens and representatives from all levels of government, he said.
His professional mark is left on numerous projects completed during his tenure, including a county prison expansion, renovation of the Penn Place building and construction of numerous bridges and buildings such as the Water Street Parkade, Emergency Management Agency and prison minimal offender building.
Because there were so many different things, I never got bored, Brozena said.
An Army Corps project manager who traveled from Boston to attend his awards ceremony Wednesday told him it's rare for a professional to see a levee project through design, construction and testing.
Walking away from a job that became part of his identity was a difficult decision, he said, as he stacked some of the remaining papers on his desk. It's bittersweet.