Applicant with vast background in transportation and planning appointed to Crawford County Road Commission
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A Crawford County resident with a wealth of experience in engineering, planning, and maintenance has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the Crawford County Road Commission.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at its regular monthly meeting held on Thursday, January 23, appointed Darryl Babbitt to serve on the road commission.
Babbitt will fill out the unexpired term for Jim Burtch, who passed away on December 5. He was 85.
Burtch had served on the road commission since 2003, with many of those years as chairman of the board.
The Crawford County Board, at a meeting held on Thursday, January 9, interviewed Dennis Neering, Ronald Larson, Roger Popp, Dave Church, James Hulbert, and Babbitt to fill the vacancy.
Burtch’s unexpired term runs through the end of 2020.
The vote to appoint Babbitt was unanimous.
“They felt that he could bring some new thought processes to the road commission,” said Shelly Pinkelman, chairwoman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners. “That’s my thought.”
Pinkelman said that Babbitt will bring a new perspective to the road commission board.
“It’s nice to have the board back to five members and I think they’re going to do some big things now,” she said.
Babbitt said he appreciated the vote of confidence to fill the vacancy as he seeks to give back to the community.
“I’m excited for this opportunity and look forward to the challenges going forward,” he said.
Babbitt is a 2004 Grayling High School graduate. He attended Michigan Technological University, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree in civil engineering.
Babbitt then went on to earn his master’s in business administration degree from Northern Michigan University in Marquette in 2015.
Following his college studies, Babbitt remained in Marquette and worked for the LS&I Railroad as a track, signal and structures supervisor, operations supervisor, and section maintenance manager.
Babbitt then relocated to Ohio, where he served as fleet manager for The Andersons, Inc., an agriculture business based in Maumee, Ohio. At the company, he managed 20,000 railcars, which traveled throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Construction of the Arauco North America Plant, located just south of Grayling, allowed Babbitt to return to Grayling.
At the time, Arauco started hiring for positions in various roles from particleboard technicians to a financial manager.
“I applied and was hired on as a plant engineer,” Babbitt said. “For the first six months, I supported the construction team in building the facility. Then in May of 2018, I was promoted to the maintenance manager.”
Babbitt feels he has three main attributes that will help the road commission.
First, he received his civil engineering degree in 2008.
“I can provide guidance and support on new construction from an engineering, safety, and cost standpoint,” he said.
Second, Babbitt has been managing maintenance for over 10 years in various industries.
“This experience will allow me to support the board in reviewing current maintenance practices,” he said.
Third, Babbitt said his master’s degree in business administration will help the board during budgeting time along with funding requests.
Babbitt plans on filing to retain his seat on the road commission when it comes time to run in the primary and general elections later this year.
“I plan on supporting the road commission for future terms,” he said.
Babbitt said he feels one of the top issues the road commission is facing is its community image.
“With the addition of social media this issue is amplified. This is consistent with all other road commissions throughout the state and country,” he said. “To help control the concerns the community needs to be heard and responded to.”
Babbitt’s family has deep roots in Crawford County, and he hopes to continue the tradition of public service as economic growth and population growth occurs in the community.
“My family has lived in the community for many generations,” he said. “This opportunity means a lot to me and my wife. I look forward to the challenges the road commission faces as time goes on.”
Ryan Halstead was recently supported by fellow road commissioners to serve as chairman of the road commission board, while Gary Summers will serve as vice chairman. Scott Hanson and Cris Jones round out the road commission board.
Halstead praised Burtch for his years of service to the road commission, especially as a retired banker addressing financial affairs.
“I think it’s a loss,” Halstead said. “I served by his side for the last eight years. It’s a shame, but we’re not going to outrun father time. He’s going to be missed that’s for sure.”
Halstead said he is pleased the board is back up to full strength.
“It’s always good to have new views and an outside perspective,” he said. “It will be a good breath of fresh air and it will be good for the board.”