Paul F. Levy last week announced that he will end his tenure as executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority effective in February.

Mr. Levy, who joined the authority in August 1987, is leaving to pursue other interests, according to authority spokesman Paul DiNatale.

"He's the type of person who, once he feels he accomplished what he set out to do, he looks for other challenges," Mr. DiNatale said. "His resignation was a surprise to everyone here at the authority, as well as to everyone in the political and environmental establishment."

The advance notice Mr. Levy provided will allow the 11 members of the authority board ample time to find a successor, Mr. DiNatale said. He added that the board's agenda for a meeting Wednesday includes forming a search committee that would locate the next water resources authority executive director.

The authority was created in 1985 as an independent, bond-issuing agency, and its mission is to cleanse Boston Harbor. That project, which will require about $7 billion, involves such tasks as building a 90-acre plant to house new primary and secondary treatment facilities, boring a nine-mile-long outfall tunnel to funnel treated sewage out to sea, and building a five-mile cross-harbor tunnel to carry raw sewage.

According to Philip N. Shapiro, the authority's director of finance and development, Mr. Levy may have seen his role as primarily in the planning phase, rather than in the operations.

"I think he kind of knew that he was not as interested in a lot of what was going to happen now -- the training and the looking for the skills necessary to staff the plants," Mr. Shapiro said.

As the top official at the authority, Mr. Levy often became a lightning rod for obloquy over water and sewer rate increases. He "made a lot of difficult decisions and handled all the criticism involved with extreme grace under pressure," Mr. Shapiro said.

He added that while it may be "a logical breaking point" for Mr. Levy, "I'm losing a great boss and a good friend." Among Mr. Levy's assets, Mr. Shapiro said, were his strong professional and academic backgrounds in economics, city planning, and public utilities.

"He enjoyed the financing aspects," Mr. Shapiro said. "He was a tremendous asset in explaining the program to investors" during the authority's $836 million revenue bond sale early last year.

"The good news is that he will be leaving a lot of talent behind," Mr. Shapiro said.

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