At the city of Bellaire’s State of the City address, Mayor Andrew Friedberg outlined key projects in 2023 that residents can expect advancing well into the year, including the $3.8 million water line replacement project to the $5.7 million drainage improvement program. He highlighted the one major component to such advancements: the new city manager, Sharon Citino.

After a nearly two-year office vacancy, Bellaire’s national search for a new city manager ended in 2022, when Citino officially took office Aug. 15.

“Now that we’ve got our new city manager, and she’s taken on a big job that’s become even bigger than any of us had realized when we hired her,” Friedberg said. “As she settled into that role, she began working with the staff to assess our policies, plans, processes and procedures, identifying areas for improvement and picking up projects that had fallen behind.”

The mayor addressed the major concern within city staffing, which reached its peak in August, in which the director of human resources vacated the position by September, the mayor said.

“Given the circumstances of the past couple of years, in which nearly all of our departments have been operating short staffed, with several employees thrust into interim leadership roles seemingly indefinitely, and having to carry that extra load on top of their regular responsibilities,” Friedberg said. "Those interim department leaders and their teams really stepped it up and we've got some great momentum coming into the new year."

Since mid-August, Bellaire has hired more staff to fill holes—including new directors for the city’s human resources, development services and information technology departments—decreasing the vacancy rate from 17% to 11%. The city departments, across the board, currently are at a 10% vacancy.

“This past year marks a turning point for the city," Friedberg said, "and we’re in great shape and a position to maintain and build upon our forward progress.”