When Jerry Young retired as Warren County Road Department supervisor at the end of March, county Public Works Director Josh Moore didn’t have to look far to fill the opening.
Moore announced last week that Billy Joe Simmons has moved from his job as road foreman into the role of road department supervisor, overseeing a 22-person department charged with maintaining roads and responding to road-related emergencies throughout the county.
“Billy Joe has been with us for 19 years and is probably our most experienced person,” Moore said. “He has kinda been functioning as interim supervisor since Jerry retired. We felt like he was the best fit for the job. I think he’s going to fit right in.”
Simmons, a lifelong Warren County resident, will be taking over a road department that is charged with maintaining a county road network that is expanding along with the growth in residential subdivisions.
Simmons has a background that has prepared him well for the challenge.
After starting out as a Class B CDL truck driver, the Warren Central High School graduate earned his Class A CDL license, trained to become a backhoe operator and earned mosquito spraying certification.
“Whatever they needed me to do, I’d step up and do it,” Simmons said.
That versatility has helped prepare Simmons to fill the shoes of Young, who retired after 43 years with the road department and 22 as its supervisor.
“Jerry Young taught me a lot,” Simmons said. “I spent a good amount of time learning the trade from him.”
Simmons, 50, also has confidence in the members of the county road department.
“Most of our guys have been here for a while,” Simmons said. “They’re experienced and know what to do.”
Both Simmons and Moore, though, would like to add personnel to a road department that is responsible for maintaining about 700 miles of county roads.
“We’re down to 22 people,” Simmons said. “We used to work with 27 or 28. We need to hire a few more.”
Moore said the department has lost some people to retirements and others have left for other employment. Young’s retirement, he said, gave him the opportunity to do some restructuring before adding staff.
Charles Meridith has been promoted to the road foreman position formerly held by Simmons, and Chad Coffey has moved into the newly created shop foreman spot at the department’s headquarters on East Fifth Avenue.
“He (Coffey) will handle equipment maintenance and make sure we have all the right materials,” Moore said.
Moore hopes to add four positions to the road department, an increase in manpower that Simmons said can be much-needed at times.
“Quite a bit of what we do is routine maintenance,” he said, “but we can have thunderstorms come through and mess up things. We’ve had trees coming down and sinkholes falling in.”
That storm damage was never more evident than in early May, when severe storms caused temporary closures of a number of roads in the northern end of the county.
One of those roads, Pondsville Road near Smiths Grove, is only now being restored for use after a culvert and a large section of the road washed out.
“That was a pretty big project,” Simmons said Monday. “They’re putting the culvert in now, and the road will be opening back up soon.”