Road and Bridge Superintendent Randy Crawford told commissioners Monday it was time to take a new road, tendering his resignation, which is effective Friday.
“My time has come and gone for Marion County, and it’s been fun,” Crawford said.
He stepped down in the wake of a 10-month countywide uproar over poor conditions of gravel and dirt roads from ill-timed heavy rains, but did not give that as a reason for his departure.
However, he did take a parting shot during Monday’s meeting at one of his most vocal detractors, Mike Beneke of Lincolnville. In addition to numerous complaints registered with Crawford’s office and in multiple commission meetings, Beneke orchestrated appearances at commission by other disgruntled county farmers.
“He shouldn’t be the one coming here bitchin’, it should be his neighbors,” Crawford said, alluding to the effects Beneke’s cattle transports allegedly have on surrounding roads. “I feel sorry for his neighbors that have to live with that.”
Crawford also offered recommendations, some repeated from past meetings, about issues ranging from equipment leases to potential road closures.
Commission Chair Dan Holub said that while Monday’s announcement was a surprise, Crawford’s departure wasn’t.
“He hadn’t said anything, but I knew he had been looking,” Holub said. “What he’s been through the last few months, wouldn’t you have been looking? Some guys are griping about things from 10 and 20 years ago. I’m glad he found a better job that he’s going to.”
Commissioner Randy Dallke was matter-of-fact about the decision.
“Road and bridge is a tough category to fulfill, and I think Randy has done a good job,” he said. “I think he just decided it was time to move on.”
Commissioner Lori Lalouette declined to comment on Crawford’s resignation, citing their relationship and saying she preferred to let Holub speak for the commission. She released a statement about future plans.
“Randy and I plan to remain living in Hillsboro and I will continue operating Lalouette Law, LLC and Marion Wellness Center, LLC, two local businesses that I own. I will also remain serving as Marion County Commissioner for District 1,” she said.
Holub said some of the criticism directed at Crawford should have been levied at commissioners.
“He was the lightning rod,” Holub said. “It was easier to jump on Randy than it was the commission.”
Holub pointed to “internal problems” in the department related to changes as an example.
“Not everybody was on board with becoming efficient,” he said. “The sad part is he implemented these policies by direction of the commission, and he took the heat for them. People didn’t like change.”
Commissioners had a hand in other controversial road matters, including a reduction in the number of grader operators and using those operators for asphalt and culvert projects.
“It was a combination of mistakes and bad choices,” Holub said. “Randy was trying to do what we wanted him to do, and we tied his hands on a lot of it.”
Commissioners will meet Thursday with department personnel to determine how Crawford’s duties will be covered in the interim between superintendents.
As to how long that might be, Holub was noncommittal.
“We’re going to do some groundwork first,” he said. “Everybody’s going to have to play a part.”
Dallke said commissioners would keep their options open when considering potential candidates for the permanent position.
“I don’t think there’s anybody out there who has the perfect answer to what we’re looking for,” he said. “Saline County just went through this. They came in with a person with leadership skills and no skills in construction. Marion County has tried that, and it didn’t work for us.”
Whatever way commissioners lean, Holub and Dallke said there are bigger issues than who will run the department.
“I’m quite sure people can see the writing on the wall,” Dallke said. “There’s not enough money to rebuild every bridge and every road. There’s going to be some hard decisions to make in the future.”
Holub said numerous issues need to be addressed.
“If we don’t fix some problems, we’re going to come to the same end no matter who we hire,” he said. “There are some things that have to change.”
Crawford did not respond to requests for additional comments as of press time.