On June 20th, 2018, Sheryl Soderholm Siddall officially takes over the reins as the Managing Director of the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC). She also has the distinction of being the first female Managing Director at WCRC.
While her twenty years of experience as an Engineer for the WCRC surely helped, the position was not just handed to her. Other applicants, both internal and external, were interviewed for the position, but in the end, Siddalll came out on top. This left her previous position of Lead Engineer open, and as of this writing they are still interviewing to fill that position.
When asked if there is anything she would immediately change, Siddall says “No”. She said she is hoping for a smooth transition into the position, and strongly feels that the status quo is in good shape, but they are always looking for ways to improve and do things better, and that will not change.
In terms of things that have been happening that residents of the county might find annoying, such as signage being left out after work is complete, leaving residents to wonder if more work is to follow or if someone just left the signs by mistake, Siddall states that this is an issue they are working on. It is a problem because then, when actual work is going to be done in any given area, residents may ignore signage because they have become accustomed to seeing signs everywhere that mean nothing.
More frustrating for county residents, it seems, is when there are two areas of construction happening within close proximity to one another. One sits in traffics, finally gets through and drives a short way, only to find themselves sitting in traffic again from yet another road issue. Siddall admits that sometimes it is poor planning, and sometimes the issue is funding. If funding comes through for a particular project, sometimes there are time limits they must adhere to to secure the funding. Another huge factor is the weather. They must take advantage of good weather and get as much done as possible when it’s not raining. This is particularly important for larger projects that take more than a few days to complete.
One thing that may help residents with their frustration, be it due to signage, or traffic detours or anything related to the WCRC is the development of a fairly new position of Communications Coordinator. Emily Kizer is the current Communication Coordinator and is working on ways to improve communication between the WCRC and residents. She said the goal is to engage with the community, including elected officials.
Not only is Siddall the first female Managing Director, but she reports they employ a female commissioner, a female engineer, and that currently there are more female interns than male. This is progress in an area of industry that used to be considered a predominantly male field.
When asked what she is most looking forward to in her new position, Siddall remarks that she is hoping for a smooth transition. She is looking forward to building relationships, finding longer term funding strategies, revisiting the millage, and funding on the state and federal level. She adds, “This is an exciting time. Roy Townsend has done a lot in leading the Road Commission.”
Finally, when asked what Siddall is least looking forward to, she thought for a moment, gave a laugh and said, “I’ll let you know.”