Patience pays for new city engineer
It’s been a long, winding road that new city engineer Mike McDill has taken on the way to Glenwood Springs.He had applied for his job three decades ago but didn’t get an interview.Instead, his career took him to Gillette, Wyo. There, he and his wife Penny raised four children while he worked in public and private-sector jobs and she in education.Then, about six years ago, McDill was hired as city engineer in Grand Junction. And last fall, Penny was hired as assistant principal at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, and Glenwood’s city engineer job became available when Larry Thompson announced he was going to work for the town of Basalt.McDill was hired and started with the city earlier this year.”It took me 30 years to get this job, but here I am,” he said.
McDill felt called to be an engineer ever since he was in junior high school. His brother also made up his mind to be an engineer.”I’m not sure we even knew what they did until we got to school and started taking classes,” McDill said.McDill was born in Omaha, Neb., but spent most of his youth in Cheyenne, Wyo. There, he took to the outdoors, and he continues to enjoy hunting, fishing, biking, skiing and other pursuits. He also still gets out on the basketball court, at the age of 58.”I tell people if I ever stop I’ll never get started again, so I keep going.”Aided by his lanky frame, McDill was good enough to go college on a basketball scholarship for a while.”Then the coach and I had a conversation. He said I would be a better engineer than a basketball player,” McDill said with a smile.He graduated from the University of Wyoming and worked in Wichita Falls, Texas, and Fort Collins. He then went to Gillette to work as a consultant during one of the town’s natural resource booms.
“As a friend of mine said there, we thought we were good but we were just lucky.”For all of McDill’s modesty, his résumé includes all kinds of accomplishments, from helping build one of the state’s first concrete bike paths in Fort Collins, to overseeing large highway projects, sewer upgrades, and even management of a golf course after its operator went bankrupt. In Glenwood, he will be involved in projects such as the Eighth Street extension and sewer plant relocation.He drove on his first roundabout in Grand Junction, where he ended up being involved in construction of more of them. He’s a fan of them, and is happy that Glenwood’s first roundabouts, installed in West Glenwood, seem to have met little public opposition, unlike Grand Junction’s early experience with them.McDill considers roundabouts safer than stop signs or lights, and thinks they might make sense for some other intersections in town. He also likes the idea of slowing traffic speeds through means such as narrowing lanes, while removing unnecessary impediments such as excessive numbers of stop signs and lights so overall travel time can end up being less.McDill is excited about the Highway 82 corridor optimization study now being undertaken to review through-route alternatives, including a bypass. He knows the corridor has undergone a lot of studies, but said this one is different in that it involves the city, Garfield County and the state.McDill doesn’t envy elected officials who often end up having to make such decisions. But over the years he has come to respect them for doing a difficult, much-scrutinized job for little pay. In the end, he believes, they make the right decisions based on the facts at hand.”I’ve learned to have pretty good faith in the political process,” he said.
He looks forward to offering input as decisions are made about Glenwood’s future.”I already have a feeling that my opinion is valued, and I appreciate that,” he said.He also loves Glenwood Springs and is happy to be its city engineer, after such a long wait.”It’s been on my radar for many years. I’m very pleased to get the opportunity to work here,” he said. Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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UPDATE: Both westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 70, according to a 12:20 a.m. update from Garfield County.