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McCall honored for 20 years of service to county

In 1997, Butler County engineer Dennis McCall had nearly 60 employees at his disposal, and the cost of resurfacing a mile of road was around $60,000.  Fast-forward more than 20 years to a staff of 32 employees and a cost of resurfacing that hovers near $140,000 per mile.

And yet, throughout McCall’s two-decade tenure as county engineer, he has continued to earn accolade after accolade among his peers on a local, statewide and a national level.

The Butler County Commission sought to commemorate those 20 years of service with a plaque and heartfelt thanks during Tuesday evening’s commission meeting.

McCall’s service extends well beyond the boundaries of Butler County, according to Butler County commissioner Frank Hickman.

“Dennis has held every office there is to hold in the Alabama Association of County Engineers,” Hickman said.

“He’s also held offices in the National Association of County Engineers (NACE).  He’s well thought of throughout the country. We’re indeed fortunate to have him working here, and I hope he stays with us for another 20.”

McCall has also served four years as the southeast regional vice president of NACE, where he served as the executive officer of an eight-member board that includes the president and secretary of NACE.

In 2013, McCall was named County Engineer of the Year, according to the Association of County Engineers of Alabama.

McCall said that serving in such capacities on a statewide and national level is one of the best ways to ensure that smaller voices, which are often drowned out on a larger scale, are still heard.

“There are so many pieces of legislation that come up,” McCall said. “And without some type of input from a rural perspective, sometimes we get lost in the midst in that.”

Hickman called McCall an unsung hero of the department for several reasons, but perhaps chief among them is a “tremendous” program that has saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Probably around 15 years ago, Dennis instituted a program in Butler County where instead of purchasing four or five dump trucks at a time that cost us several hundreds of thousands of dollars, we started leasing dump trucks on an annual basis,” Hickman said. “Each year, we would sell our one-year-old dump trucks at auction. And believe it or not, the price that we would get from the auction sale of our used dump trucks from one year would bring as much, or close to as much, as we paid for them on a lease purchase basis over the course of a year.”

“So there’s a double savings in all of this.  We actually get new dump trucks that we use on an annualized basis that we use for no cost, plus we save what used to be a tremendous amount in maintenance and other costs associated with upkeep on equipment. It’s been a tremendous savings to Butler County.”

For McCall, the most rewarding elements of his service to the county are almost always tempered by the frustrations of dwindling state and federal resources.

“The job of a county engineer has a lot of rewards; it’s very rewarding to be able to do something that benefits the public,” McCall said.

“But it’s also very frustrating in that you see so many needs that you just can’t address due to limited resources.”

But McCall made it clear that the county engineer position has yielded a great number of rewards throughout the past two decades, both tangible and intangible.

“Butler County has been good to me.  It’s been good to my family,” McCall said. “It’s given me the opportunity to raise our daughter here, who is a junior this year. She knows nothing other than Butler County.  We’ve built a lot of friendships, and it’s just been a great time for us as a family.

“I’ve worked with some great people; John Mark Davis was my assistant for nearly the 20 years. John Mark is the county engineer in Autauga County now, and I’ve got a very promising and competent young engineer, Josh McDougal, and the county is fortunate to have him.  I work with some dedicated employees who face the same challenges.  When you basically reduce your employees by 50 percent, it takes some very dedicated employees to keep things going. And we’ve got that.  Our citizens should be proud of that.”