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Alumnus Chris Isbell Named National Rural County Engineer of the Year

June 3, 2013

             Isbell NACE Award
  National Award Winner: Chris Isbell (right) received the National Association of County Engineers’ Rural County Engineer of the Year Award this spring at the organization’s Meeting/Management & Technical Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo provided)

Civil engineering alumnus Chris Isbell, PE, has been named the Rural County Engineer of the Year by the National Association of County Engineers (NACE). He has been county engineer for Stephenson County, Illinois, since 1991.

The NACE award recognizes efficient engineering management principles and standards for the economic design, construction, maintenance, and operation of public works facilities.

Isbell, a 1980 graduate, is credited with developing the county’s first roundabout, upgrading the heaviest traveled county highways, and forming a statewide mutual aid system, the Illinois Public Works Mutual Aid Network. He oversees an annual budget of less than $3.5 million for a county with a population under 48,000.

During his career, Isbell has helped coordinate efforts for more than 10 federally declared disasters. He has received economic development grants from the Illinois government for road improvements, adding $20 million to the local economic impact. His appointment as county engineer came within four weeks of earning his Professional Engineers’ license at 26 years old, and he first started working for the highway commissioner at age 15.

“For a small agricultural community, Chris is actively using new technologies, and new and recycled materials to keep his costs in line—all while keeping safety his top priority,” states Brian Roberts, NACE executive director. “He initiated several test projects, which went on to become the firsts of their kind in Illinois. I can’t think of a more innovative engineer.”

NACE is a non-profit, non-partisan professional association representing nearly 2,000 county engineers, road managers, and related professionals in the United States and Canada.