Each year the North Dakota Local Technical Assistance Program highlights the work of North Dakota’s county highway department crews and road superintendents in a different county in the state. This year, the county that will be honored with hosting LTAP’s annual Road Day/Open House is none other than Williams County.
The free event will feature burgers and brats from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Williams County Highway Complex, located at 5218 141st Avenue Northwest in Williston.
All ages are welcome. Kids will no doubt enjoy seeing the heavy equipment up close, as well as all the tools that are used to build and maintain the county’s roads. Adults may appreciate a chance to visit with County Highway employees and County Commissioners, to talk about the work of road crews in the county. There will also be informational booths available to round things out.
Williams County was selected for this honor because Williams County Highway Superintendent Dennis Nelson was named 2020 road Superintendent of the Year by the North Dakota Association of County Engineers.
Nelson has been in Williston for now 16 years, getting his start here as a surveyor and project inspector for Williston. He applied for the job as Williams County’s highway superintendent in late 2005 — pre-boom. A lot has changed since then, of course, with the oil and gas industry emerging in the state and challenging transportation systems, particularly in western North Dakota.
In a previous interview, Nelson told the Williston Herald the boom was a particularly challenging time.
“We’d go to repair or try to maintain one section of road, only for another one to go and another and another during the boom,” he said. “Of course it was tough, and it still is. We got hit pretty hard throughout the whole county.”
Nelson credited teamwork for the award that is bringing the annual Road Day/Open House to Williams County. His department has roughly 40 employees, many of whom are out in all kinds of weather, blading or adding sand and salt to keep roads clear in winter, then regrading them in spring and summer to keep them as smooth as possible.
“We have such a good team all the way. I accepted the award on behalf of Team Williams County,” he said. “It takes the whole team to get an honor like this. And it’s everyone who works with Williams County, too. The LTAP organization doing some training, the DOT giving us advice and working with us on bridges, roads, pavement or gravel, and of course the federal aid. That helps with the financial things.”