After 27 years of managing capital programmes in the water industry, Gordon Heald is leaving to become trusts officer for the United Reform Church Eastern Synod.
He talks to Dave Parker about the change.
Former regional capital works manager for the Environment Agency's Anglian region, Gordon Heald, says the creativity of civil engineering is what he will miss most in his new post. 'There will be a lot of similarities in the asset management and cost control areas, and my experience of working with committees will come in very useful, but the civil engineering content is effectively zero.'
Instead, Heald will be responsible for the upkeep of around 200 properties belonging to the United Reform Church, two thirds of which are churches and the rest a mixture of houses and shops. 'Some are brand spanking new, some date back to the 17th century, but typically, they will be late Victorian or early Edwardian, ' he says.
'So we have the usual problems of such buildings - damp, general 'property fatigue' and so on.'
Heald's annual budget will be 'a few hundred thousand pounds' - a far cry from the £30M per annum he controlled in his last position with the Environment Agency. But there are good reasons for this downsizing, not least his own membership of the Church.
'For the last two years, I've been looking to reduce my working week, for personal reasons, ' Heald explains. 'My wife and I even tried for a double VSO posting - she has a teaching qualification - but nothing suitable came up.
'Now, I'll be working part-time and very close to home, which is ideal.'
His mainstream career began back in 1973, when he joined consultant Howard Humphrey's Epsom office to work on the design of the sewage treatment plant for Benghazi. Four years later, he made a key move - to the Anglian Water Authority, based in Peterborough. By 1990, Heald was principal engineer, flood defence and water resources, for the National Rivers Authority, and in 1996 was appointed Environment Agency regional capital works manager.
Along the way, he picked up membership of the ICE and the Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management. By the end of his career with the Agency, he was managing more than 20 staff, covering projects across the spectrum from flood defence to navigation maintenance. But Heald was becoming burdened by the ever increasing workload he and his staff were having to bear.
'When I started with the water authority, I was able to complete my assigned workload within my specified working hours, ' he says.
'Now, we seem to need double this. The problem is that engineers have a 'can do' attitude and rarely complain.'
Apart from much shorter working hours, there is another benefit from his new posting. 'No more commuting up and down the M11 and A14, ' Heald reports.
'That's something I really won't miss.'