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County engineer: ‘Thank you for everything’

Russel resigning after 15 years as department head
County engineer: ‘Thank you for everything’
County engineer: ‘Thank you for everything’
Harrison County Highway Dept. Superintendent Kevin Russel, center, chats with visitors at the department’s holiday dinner in December 2018. File photo

Harrison County will spend most of 2020 without its long-time highway department superintendent. Kevin Russel submitted his resignation, which was accepted by the Harrison County Board of Commissioners at its first meeting of the new year.

“Thank you for everything,” Russel said after announcing his resignation Monday morning.

In 2005, Russel, who was then 29, took on the role as the department head. He had gained experience with the department beforehand as an assistant with the county since the summer of 1999.

All three commissioners said Russel’s departure is a loss for the county.

“This is a very sad day for Harrison County right now,” said Commissioner Kenny Saulman, who will serve as the chair of the board for another year.

Commissioner Charlie Crawford said he’d like to see Russel continue to serve the county occasionally to help the highway department’s next hire get more familiar with the position.

Russel’s last day will be Jan. 24.

“Three weeks is not long enough to glean all the information and to get into the depth you have,” Crawford said.

Russel said he accepted a position with Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz Inc., a civil engineering and surveying firm based in Clarksville, where he briefly worked before accepting a position with Harrison County. His new role will include leading the company’s transportation department.

Russel said talks with his new employer have already begun to allow him to come help the county highway department from time to time.

“Kevin, I never regretted hiring you back in the early days,” said Commissioner Jim Heitkemper.

Russel extended his appreciation to the other county commissioners he had worked for and with in previous years, too.

“I’ve enjoyed working here,” Russel said. “It’s probably become a part of who I am, and it was awfully hard to leave.”

A search for Russel’s successor will begin immediately. Crawford said they won’t rush a hire to fill the position, and, by the time they’re ready to hire someone, the human resources consultants hired to evaluate the pay, benefits and other compensation highway department workers, and all county employees, receive would be complete.

Russel said that’s information likely needed for anyone who is considering the position.

Heitkemper said one issue he wants to see progress before Russel departs is plans to reopen Doolittle Hill Road in the southern portion of the county, where a section of the road has been closed since last summer due to a slide-off in the pavement.

During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners received another update to the Lanesville connector road project. The new intermediate completion date, where the road must be usable for the current phase of the project, is June 13, with a final completion date of Sept. 13.

“The gap between those two (dates) is to allow for vegetation establishment,” said American Structurepoint’s Josh Culver. “So they can get all the permits satisfied. That’s stipulated by (the Indiana Dept. of Transportation). All the weather days, the calculations of the dates, it’s all set by INDOT’s specification. INDOT’s already reviewed this and signed off it on their end.”

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners will continue to meet the first Monday of each at 8:30 a.m. and the third one at 7  p.m. (except when there’s a holiday; then the meeting is moved to the following day).

The commissioners’ next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. (changed from Monday because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day)..