June 26, 2023

Best Job Yet: How Stormwater Engineer Kristina Searles Solves for Success

Kristina shares about managing flood protection projects at the City of Virginia Beach.
Kristina Searles

Stormwater engineering wasn’t the kind of work she set out to do. But after three years managing flood protection programs for the City of Virginia Beach, Kristina Searles believes she’s where she’s meant to be.

Stormwater Engineer Kristina Searles and colleague reviewing site plans

“This is the first project that’s going to be done to this scale on the East Coast, basically creating marsh islands,” she said referring to the area’s Marsh Restoration in the Back Bay Project. “To be part of this here, it’s just a really great feeling.”

Graduating from college in the Midwest with an environmental engineering degree, Kristina’s career started in construction. Relocating to Virginia Beach offered an opportunity to pivot. Having enjoyed stormwater coursework during college, she searched for a job in this field.

“It’s nice to be on the design side, not just the construction side,” she said. “I get to work on projects from when we identify the problem to figuring out the solution.”

After working at a private engineering company, Kristina enjoys that her job in the City’s Public Works department involves many kinds of tasks. “We work on a variety of things, whether it’s looking at plans, talking with a consultant or interacting with residents,” she said. “At the City, every day is different.

One of her favorite aspects of the job is model work, which is done using the software PCSWMM. “I just really enjoy getting to the nitty gritty. That means looking at a location, breaking it down in the model, and seeing where there’s room for improvement,” Kristina said.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can solve the City’s flooding problems. We’re also trying to protect the City and its residents as sea levels rise,” she said.

Stormwater Engineer Kristina Searles and colleague walking down path in woods

As a project manager for the Stormwater Green Infrastructure Flood Protection Program, one of Kristina’s main projects is mitigating erosion along the Elizabeth River, which includes restoring trails behind Arrowhead Elementary School.

Part of her role involves seeking input from stakeholders in impacted neighborhoods. A recent community meeting offered an opportunity for their team to get feedback on the project, which will restore marshes and create nature trails the school can incorporate into their curriculum.

“The residents seemed really engaged,” Kristina said. “They were very interested in what we were doing, where we were doing it and how it was going to impact them.”

Kristina also really enjoys working with her team. “Our team is great. We’re like a little family, and we have each other’s backs. I don’t know what I would do without them,” she said.

“At the same time, we’re also working on projects that are going to have big impacts for the City. It’s all very rewarding.”

Find YOUR best job yet. Check out current employment opportunities with the City of Virginia Beach at virginiabeach.gov/careers.

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