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Rotary recognizes county highway department

Every year the Austin Rotary Club gives out community awards, including recognition for service in education, government, and community.

This year the Community Service Team award went to the Mower County Highway Department Road Maintenance crew and the three supporting mechanics who keep the crew road-ready. This team is led by Public Works Director Mike Hanson.

Environmental Services/Planning and Zoning Supervisor Angie Lipelt submitted the nomination. Lipelt is part of the Public Works Department and sees these employees coming and going each day.

“These men work tirelessly to keep the Mower County roads passable and safe; they are Mower County’s un-sung heroes,” Lipelt said.

This past winter, Mower County experienced record snowfall and had two significant weather events. On Feb. 23, these men rescued over 100 motorists stranded in blizzard conditions. They made roads passable for law enforcement and ambulance services and spent nearly a week clearing the county’s transportation grid.

During the April snow, wind and ice event that took down hundreds of power poles throughout the county, these employees plowed their routes as best they could and also detoured traffic away from downed power lines until law enforcement, and later the National Guard, arrived to barricade roads.

According to Lipelt, it is not just responding to unusual weather events that make this crew award worthy. These men are the first ones on the roads each day and respond whenever needed. They spend more time on the roads than just about anyone and are relied upon for their knowledge of road and bridge conditions when putting together the Mower County five and 10 year road plan.

It is noteworthy that Mower County has the lowest per capita traffic fatality record in the region.

In her nomination letter, Liepelt said, “This is a true TEAM where Together Everybody Achieves More!”

The Mower County crew includes: Public Works Director Mike Hanson, Road Maintenance Supervisor Don Smith, Heavy Equipment Operators, Brian Anderson, Mike Arens, Jim Blomgren, Bruce Ellinghuysen, Dylan Husemoller, Brandon Johnson, Paul Kirtz, Scott Meyer, Clint Miller, Nicholas Pedersen, Russ Slowinski, Greg Swenson, Nick Wehner, Pete Werner, Kevin Whalen, Lead Mechanic Joe Schechinger and Mechanics Chris Eastvold and Marcus Thompson.