Henry County residents are about to say goodbye to an innovative road superintendent.
Henry County Highway Engineer Steve Brandau will take many memories with him when he retires Thursday, Nov. 30, from a position that he refers to as having been “my life.”
He has been with the department for more than 35 years, including 30 years as county engineer. He was named to that position in 1987, when he was the youngest county engineer in the State of Illinois.
Born in Dixon, Brandau graduated from high school there and then went to the University of Illinois, where he majored in engineering. After graduating from college, he worked as a structural engineer for Stanley Consultants in Muscatine, Iowa.
With the slipping economy in the 1980’s, Brandau made a job switch.
“I was kind of nervous about my future with Stanley,” he said.
He applied for a position in Henry County and interviewed with the late Nelson Taber, who was Henry County engineer at the time.
Brandau was hired as assistant superintendent of highways in 1982.
Becoming an engineer was a natural fit for Brandau as his father, Ronald Brandau, Dixon, was county engineer in Lee County.
“I grew up with engineers,” he said. “My brother and my brother-in-law are both engineers.”
His son, Jared Brandau, is an engineer with a structural firm in Denver, Colo.
Among the many things Brandau is proud of is having an asphalt plant in Henry County, the only county with its own asphalt plant.
“The plant was here when I took over,” he said. “Like other equipment, they wear out and equipment has to be replaced. We replaced the equipment in the plant and improved air quality of the emissions of the plant two different times before a new plant was built in 2010. “At that time, it was state of the art.”
He said having the plant in Henry County not only creates jobs, but also keeps control of the cost of the asphalt.
“Other counties have to purchase the asphalt from contractors,” he said. “We are proud of the roads we have and I am proud of my crews.”
Brandau was instrumental in developing the road agreements for the three wind farms in Henry County.
Brandau’s accolades have been many and the plaques and certificates of recognition he has received are displayed in his office.
Some of the awards he has received include:
• 2008 Rural County Engineer of the Year, by the National Association of County Engineers,
• 1997 County Engineer of the Year – For Meritorious Service Toward the Enhancement of Highway Engineering, Illinois Association of County Engineers,
• 2002 Community Service Award – Service Above Self from the Cambridge Rotary Club, and
• Paul Harris Fellowship Award from the Cambridge Rotary Club.
In referring to the national award, Brandau said, “I couldn’t believe that they would recognize me in a little place like Henry County, Illinois.
“The national award, Professional Engineers in Government Achievement and Service in the United States (PEGASUS) from the National Society of Professional Engineers is another ‘wow’ factor for me,” he said.
“I have been blessed – great county boards throughout my career, a fantastic staff that has been nothing but supportive and we have worked together very well,” Brandau said. “I also have been blessed that my family has always been very supportive.”
Scott Stephenson is the assistant county engineer.
Brandau praised all of the people who have worked for him and said, “I have been blessed and these people have been my life. I have done this my entire my life and I would like the opportunity to do other kinds of projects now.”
He said he enjoys woodworking and his own shop. “I enjoy making furniture,” Brandau said.
He and his wife, Karen, also plan to travel more.
“We have an RV and we enjoy visiting national parks and state parks in this area and maybe now we will expand out a little further,” he said.
Brandau also hopes to have more time to volunteer with Rebuilding Together – Geneseo and Cambridge.
Kerry Spivey, office manager of the Henry County Highway Department, referred to Brandau as “Mr. Volunteer,” as he helps in so many avenues in the community.
Brandau and his wife have three sons, Jason (Meghan) and grandsons, Asher, Grayson and Reid, Geneseo; Ryan, Minneapolis, Minn., and Jared, Denver.