By Steve Woodhouse
Knoxville — For 2003 Twin Cedars High School alumnus Tyler Christian, coming back to Marion County to serve his hometown has worked out well.
Christian officially became the Marion County Engineer on Dec. 23. He took over for Roger Schletzbaum, who retired from the position.
Born in Oskaloosa, Christian grew up in Tracy. After graduating from TCHS, he went on to Iowa State University to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. He spent one year, while at ISU, working for the Engineering Services Bureau of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Christian left with his degree in 2008.
From there, he went to work for Foth Infrastructure and Eninvironment out of Johnston. His focus was on municipal infrastructure projects, such as sanitary sewers, storm sewers, etc. He earned his Public Engineer's license three-and-a-half years after his ISU graduation.
The environmental division of Foth consults the South Central Iowa Solid Waste Agency. When Christian learned of the possibility that Schletzbaum was going to retire, he looked into the job.
Christian still has ties to Marion County. He and his wife of seven years, Sarah (Williams), are TCHS alumni, and Christian's parents, Mike and Brenda Christian, as well as his grandparents, Henry and Lillian Ray, still live in the Twin Cedars School District. Mike is a recent retiree from the Department of Veterans Affairs and now works part-time doing maintenance for Pella Regional Health Center. Brenda works for a CPA firm in Pella.
Christian said it was his grandfather who inspired him to explore a career in engineering. Henry Ray worked in construction, often running a bulldozer.
"I always wanted to run a bulldozer and follow in his footsteps," Christian said.
When Christian told Henry that he wanted to go into construction, Henry suggested that Christian get a college education, to have something to fall back on if construction did not work out. Civil engineering was seen as the avenue in which Christian could both build a career, as well as roads.
With that, Christian has always had the thought of becoming County Engineer in the back of his mind. The opportunity was not available when he finished college, at least not in Central Iowa. He and Sarah wanted to stay in the area. While Christian was still in college, Sarah was offered a teaching job in Nevada, where the couple continues to make their home. They are trying to sell their home and find one in Marion County.
Christian is grateful for the opportunity to work as Marion County Engineer. He plans to make a long-term career here. Not only is Marion County home, but Christian believes the County is in a really good position, financially and organizationally. It's a good place to come to work.
Christian has been working under Schletzbaum for a few weeks. He said he dived in "head first," and has already learned what it takes to handle snow events. The department's responsibility during winter weather goes beyond plowing, and he praised Schletzbaum's work in maintaining good salt and sand supplies for the County.
This is also the time of year County departments prepare their annual budgets for the Board of Supervisors' approval, and Schletzbaum has worked closely with Christian on the Secondary Roads budget.
The experience Schletzbaum and other senior members of the department loaned to this process for Christian was been very helpful, he said. He is confident that he will be ready to prepare the next budget on his own.
The Marion County Secondary Roads Department is responsible for maintaining 950 miles of roads. This excludes City streets and state highways. Christian said he believes the majority of the County roads are in good condition, due to the good work Schletzbaum and staff have done over the years, but there is always room for improvements. He will continue to try to offer the best level of service to County residents, within the restraints of the department's budget.
Meeting the needs and a strong level of service to residents is seen as the most challenging aspect of the position, according to Christian. The most rewarding aspect of the new job, for him, is the ability to expand his career in a place where he has a vested interest, in the county in which he enjoyed being a resident.