Bethel Park drafted a career soldier to be its next municipal manager.
Council hired retired Lt. Col. Laurence Christian at the meeting May 13 to replace Shawn Arbaugh, who resigned in February to return to his hometown in Clearfield County.
Christian, 48, will move to the area from his home near Fort Benning, Ga. and will start his new job in Bethel Park July 1. In the meantime, Bethel Park Police Chief Timothy O’Connor will continue to fulfill the duties of municipal manager, a role he assumed when Arbaugh resigned.
Christian has family in the area and he specifically looked for public administration jobs in Pennsylvania upon retirement from the Army. He also researched Bethel Park extensively in order to make an impression on municipal leaders. It worked.
“This gentleman did a lot of homework,” said Councilman Don Harrison. “When he comes here, he will have already learned a lot about the municipality.”
His research into Bethel Park convinced him that it was the perfect place to raise his children. He and his wife, Anne Marie, have three children, ages 7, 5 and 2.
“I’m aware of the challenges faced by the municipality including the recent flooding,” Christian said in a press release. “I love the comprehensive plan under development and am looking forward to working with that and seeing it come to fruition and encouraging the residents to offer input. I’m also aware that there’s a call for keeping green space in the community, so I’ll be focused on that as well.”
Christian became interested in public administration while he served in the Army and he sought assignments that would hone his municipal management skills. He oversaw several capital improvement projects in the Army, each valued at $35 million to $42 million. Just before his retirement, he served as deputy commander and chief of staff at one of the brigades at Fort Benning.
Christian helped establish the Veterans Local Government Management Fellowship in Georgia to help soldiers transition from active duty to civilian jobs in municipal government. He then used that program to become a fellow in the office of the city manager in Columbus, Ga., where he worked for the past year.
Christian wants to continue helping veterans when he moves to this area. “So many have served our country and I would like to be involved in programs that benefit our veteran population,” he said.
Christian holds a bachelor’s degree in social science from Campbell University and a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University. He has completed the Pennsylvania municipal administration training certification and holds the International City/County Management Association’s local government certification.
In another matter, council approved fee increases for Tri-Community South Emergency Medical Services, which provides emergency medical care in Bethel Park, as well as South Park and Upper St. Clair. The rate of the increase will vary, depending on the service, but a typical ambulance transport to the hospital will increase from $650 to $900.
Harrison praised Tri-Community South EMS for providing an excellent service to residents but their costs for equipment and other expenses has been increasing. He suggested that residents could help support the ambulance service with a $60 annual subscription that will also cut the out-of-pocket cost for ambulance services in half.
Council also agreed to apply for a state Department of Community and Economic Development grant to install flood mitigation infrastructure at Peter Page Park near Bethel Park High School.
Councilman Mark O’Brien said the project is the first of many phases to mitigate some of the flooding in the municipality. That area was hit hard during the flash floods last June. Bethel Park will try to address flooding problems in other areas of the municipality in subsequent phases.
“It’s going to take a long time, but we do have a plan,” O’Brien said.
Council also announced that it will have a Touch A Truck event from 1-4 p.m. May 19 at the new public works building on Slater Road. Residents can tour the new building, check out various municipal and emergency vehicles, and purchase an extra garbage can at the event.