Linn County Engineer Steve Gannon announces retirement after 20 years leading the department

Steve Gannon

Linn County
Steve Gannon Linn County

CEDAR RAPIDS — After two decades at the helm of Linn County’s Secondary Road Department, County Engineer Steve Gannon has announced his plans to retire.

After 40 years with the county, Gannon, 67, likened the job of a county engineer to the Greek story of Sisyphus, who spent his days rolling a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down after he’d reached the top.

“I’m now replacing culverts I built when I was much younger,” Gannon said Wednesday. “Every morning I’m pushing the rock back up the hill. If that’s where you’re at, maybe somebody else can grab the rock for you.”

The Linn County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday formally accepted Gannon’s notice of retirement. His last day as county engineer is planned for April 13.

After graduating from Iowa State University, Gannon worked from 1974 to 1979 as a bridge engineer, according to his resignation letter.

After a few years with a consulting company in Mason City, he returned to Linn County in 1983 as assistant county engineer with then-County Engineer Jerry Nelson.

During that time, Gannon oversaw the design and construction of Blairs Ferry Road from Chain Lakes Road all the way to Palo.


In 1998, Gannon took on his current role as county engineer — he was only the fifth person to hold the title since the position was created in 1913 by the Iowa Legislature.

When Gannon started with the county back in 1974, Linn County was home to 346 bridges, 184 of which required posted weight limits due to age or wear. Since then, the county’s bridge stock has been reduced by nearly 90 bridges, with only a dozen requiring weight limits.

“That’s mostly because of Steve,” County Supervisor Brent Oleson said, describing Gannon as hardworking and financially responsible. “The public has greatly benefited from his engineering skills.”

In his 20 years as county engineer, Gannon has led the rebuilding of the county’s rock surface roads, updates to the county bridge inventory and completion of 200 miles of concrete overlay.

“Most of the things I wanted to do, I’ve done,” he said.

In addition, the secondary road department assisted with flood response efforts in 2008 and 2016 and has received countless accolades under Gannon’s leadership. That includes the 2011 National Roadway Safety Award for being the first U.S. county to use a concrete safety edge on roads to reduce risk for vehicles re-entering the road.

“You are measured by others by what you accomplish. You measure yourself by what you dream,” Gannon said in his resignation letter.

“My predecessors dreamed big and set goals that still benefit Linn County residents. I have attempted to build upon the work and vision of previous county engineers to make the Linn County Secondary Road system the best it could be.”

Gannon added that any success in the department is shared by all those he’s worked with over the years.


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“I’m proud of the things my guys have done and I’m proud of the people I’ve worked with. I would like them to know that,” he said.

Following Gannon’s retirement, Brad Ketels, assistant county engineer, will lead the county road department until a new county engineer is hired by the Board of Supervisors.

In his retirement letter, Gannon endorsed Ketels for the position full time.

“I recommend that Mr. Ketels is best suited for this position and has the values that are prized by Linn County and has commitment to the County, the Road Department and the citizens of Linn County,” he said in the letter.

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