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County engineer says politics doesn't hinder his work

November 28, 2001

County engineer says politics doesn't hinder his work



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

When Washington County Chief Engineer Terry McGee decided in 1988 to move from engineering work in the private sector to the public sector, colleagues told him he was making a mistake.

They told him public service work meant dealing with politics, and that could be annoying, McGee said.

But McGee said he has found politics does not interfere with his work.

He said he finds it exciting to work on projects owned by the county government. When he works with private developers he may not see eye to eye with the owners, he said.

But that's not a problem when the county is the owner because there isn't a difference of opinion about what the end result should be or what changes are needed, he said.

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McGee, 42, was hired by Washington County in 1988 as an assistant county engineer. In 1990 he became the county engineer and that title was later changed to chief engineer.

McGee is the head of the 18-member engineering department, which designs capital projects for the county including roads, bridges, storm water management ponds, railroad crossings, he said.

The department oversees and designs other county projects including landfills, parks and highway improvements he said.

It also reviews capital projects for private developers, he said.

Required documents for most public and private projects in the county go through his office for a thorough examination before construction begins, McGee said.

"If it is moving dirt around in the county... you can bet it comes through here in some manner," he said.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop praised McGee.

"The responsibilities of our engineering department have grown over the last several years and Terry has provided strong management in addressing those additional responsibilities," Shoop said.

The new responsibilities include enforcing a state-mandated storm water management ordinance, he said.

"The leadership he provides to the people that work for him show a very efficient operation," Shoop said.

One of McGee's chief accomplishments in recent years was overseeing the construction of the new Forty West Landfill, which opened in January, Shoop said.

McGee said the favorite part of his job is the point at which projects are under construction because it means he has seen a project go from start to near completion, he said.

One frustrating part of his job is dealing with "unreasonable people," McGee said. Some people don't listen when he explains why changes must be made before he can approve plans for a project, he said.

He has been accused of being both pro- and anti-development, McGee said. But he said he doesn't let personal opinions about which projects are good or bad influence his work.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., McGee has lived in Washington County, except for one year, since he was in second grade.

McGee, who is married and has two children, is the president of Friends of the Washington Monument.

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