COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson has held his post for 46 years, making him the longest-serving elected county official in Ohio.
He was first elected engineer in 1969.
“Won the first time with 50-some thousand votes and I won by 112 votes. Had two recounts and then I was off and running. Won three more times and since then, I have not had opposition. So it’s been good,” Dawson said.
“I think the key thing is being accessible. We are very accessible. I get a kick out of public officials that barricade themselves. You can’t get in, you can’t see them. You can’t call them on the phone. Anyone walks in this office that is a legitimate person, I will talk to them. If they call on the phone, I take every phone call,” Dawson said.
He said it is common knowledge that he is the longest-serving county engineer in Ohio. It got him to thinking that maybe he held the role of longest-serving elected county official in the entire state.
That is when he asked his office assistant, Pam Davis, to look into it.
“I said check that out if you get a chance. It is real easy because we’ve got a book with all the associations. She called the associations,” Dawson said.
“A lot of them would just know right off the top of their head as to who their longest serving office holder was. Other ones, I would have to make a couple different phone calls. We were getting more and more excited because most people were in the 30’s,” Davis said.
In February, they learned Dawson held the top spot with 46 years as Columbiana County’s engineer.
“That is way back,” Dawson said.
He graduated from East Liverpool High School, got his civil engineering degree at Youngstown State University and his master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.
“Got my license in professional engineering, surveyors license real quickly when I was 27, which is pretty hard to do. Very fortunate in getting experience there. So I could take my test and pass the test. That is pretty much how it all happened. That got me here,” Dawson said.
Davis said Dawson’s longevity makes her job interesting.
“You definitely get to see a lot of experience and he has a lot of knowledge. I mean, you will hear him talking about different projects from over time and history of the county. That is always interesting,” Davis said.
Dawson’s photos and awards line the walls of the office. It shows many of the projects he has helped complete over the years.
“One of them was the creation of the Buckeye Water District. We turned all of the county’s water facilities over to Buckeye and it has been very successful. They have built a huge new plant,” Dawson said.
He is responsible for overseeing the maintenance of more than 530 miles of roads. Dawson said in his career, all 360-plus bridges have either been rebuilt or replaced in Columbiana County.
“The secret is getting the money, finding the money, getting the grants. It is what I spent a lot of my time at,” Dawson said.
He said he has been fortunate to work well with others in county government as well as residents.
“The best part is being able to get things done, being able to help people,” Dawson said.
His proudest accomplishment though is being a husband, father of two and grandfather of three.
“We’ve got a pool and the greatest day of my life is a Sunday afternoon when everybody is there and we are having a family day,” Dawson said.