TOWANDA - Cathy Hilscher Yeakel, who grew up in Towanda Township and is now in her 30s, said she had always wanted to be the manager of the Bradford County Conservation District.

Now her wish has come true.

Yeakel, who has worked since January 2011 as an environmental scientist with RETTEW Associates in Williamsport, has been hired as the manager of the Bradford County Conservation District, said Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller.

Her first day on her new job, which will involve overseeing 16 employees and an agency with a $1.5 million budget, will be Aug. 5.

Yeakel replaces Mike Lovegreen, who is retiring after serving as the Conservation District's manager for 33 years.

Yeakel graduated from Towanda High School in 1997 and in 2002 earned a B.S. from Mansfield University in Geography, with an emphasis in Environmental Science.

Yeakel said that when she graduated from college, her first choice for a job was working at the Bradford County Conservation District, which had an opening at the time for a watershed specialist. However, a candidate who had more experience than her got the watershed specialist position.

Yeakel said that being conservation district manager will be "a very challenging position" to fill, as Lovegreen had filled the position for so many years and "had pretty much made the Conservation District what it is today," Yeakel said.

"It will be very big shoes to fill, but I love challenges and I am very excited to have this opportunity," Yeakel said.

Yeakel was selected for the position because of her work experience, educational background, and her professional aptitude for the job, said Mark Agutter, Bradford County human resources director.

Yeakel has served as an environmental scientist for several different companies and has a strong background in writing applications for grants, he said.

Yeakel was the first choice of the committee that conducted the interviews for the position, said Miller, who also serves on the board of directors of the Bradford County Conservation District.

The six applicants who were judged to have the educational and work experience needed for the position were interviewed, Agutter said.

The interviewing committee consisted of the board of directors of the Conservation District, Agutter, and Lovegreen.

The Bradford County commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to hire Yeakel as the conservation district manager.

Yeakel, who will work full-time, will earn an annual salary of $47,000.

Prior to working at RETTEW, Yeakel had worked as a project manager at Advantage Environmental Consultants in Jessup, Md. for five years.

She also worked two years as a watershed specialist at the Wyoming County Conservation District.

Yeakel recalled how Lovegreen had mentored her while she worked as a watershed specialist in Wyoming County.

Yeakel explained that the manager of the Wyoming County Conservation District "had left and there was no one to help me."

At the time, Wyoming County Conservation District had approximately 14 interns who were supposed to work on a stream restoration project, so Yeakel turned to Lovegreen for guidance on carrying out the stream project, because he had a lot of experience in that area.

Yeakel's family still lives in Bradford County.

Lovegreen, who had done a "tremendous, tremendous" job as manager, will continue to work another one to two months on a full-time basis at the Conservation District to help with the training of Yeakel, Miller said.

Lovegreen has also offered to continue to serve at the Conservation District after that on a "part-time, as needed basis, going forward," Miller said.

The Conservation District has begun discussing Lovegreen's offer, but has not made a decision yet on whether to accept it, Miller said.

"I believe the consensus is that they will" accept his offer, Miller said. "He's a phenomenal resource."

In addition, Lovegreen "has expressed an interest in maintaining a relationship with the board of directors," although it's not yet known whether that relationship would involve him becoming a non-voting, associate member of the board, or taking on some other role, Miller said.

Some of the programs and services available from the Bradford County Conservation District are environmental education, erosion and sedimentation pollution control, storm water management, floodplain monitoring, Dirt & Gravel Roads Pollution Prevention, nutrient management, Chesapeake Bay Program, watershed protection, beneficial use of bio-solids, waterway and wetlands protection, and Agricultural Land Preservation.

Pennsylvania's conservation districts, established in 1945 under the Conservation District Law, are the local unit of state government that provides the link between citizens and the multitude of local, state, and federal natural resource management programs and agencies.

The mission of the Bradford County Conservation District is to provide leadership, technical, financial, and education resources to the people, municipalities, industries, and organizations of Bradford County to develop sound natural resource management through the implementation of soil, water, and air conservation best management practices, according to Bradford County's website.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.