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Posted on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

Steve Puuri announces retirement from the Washtenaw County Road Commission

By Lisa Allmendinger

This story has been updated to correct the number of years that Puuri served as managing director.

Steven_Puuri_WCRC_Aug2010.JPG file photo

After 25 years with the Washtenaw County Road Commission, Steve Puuri announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon.

In a letter to the Road Commission Board, Puuri said he planned to retire on Dec. 23.

Commissioner Ken Schwartz said although he’d only been working with Puuri for a year, “It’s been a pleasure to work with Steve. I’ve found him to be extremely efficient and responsive.”

“With your absence, a lot of responsibility will be placed on the chairman,” he said, adding that he was glad that current Chairman Doug Fuller had previous road experience to assist a new hire.

After the meeting, Puuri said, “The time is right. The organization is in a good place considering the funding situation with good people.”

Puuri, 56, said he planned to take some time off and had nothing immediate planned other than spending time with his family.

He said he’d spent 34 years in public service, nine years as an engineer with the Federal Soil Conservation Service. He was the county highway engineer with the Road Commission before becoming managing director, replacing Robert Polens, who retired in 2003.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in my career so far,” he said, adding that he still planned to accomplish more in the future, but didn’t believe in having something else lined up while still employed by the Road Commission.

“Clearly, Mr. Puuri has been imaginative, creative and extremely able,” Fuller said. "He will be missed.”

The announcement prompted a lengthy discussion about how the Road Commission would fill his position. Currently, the managing director makes $115,000, but an announcement of the opening won’t include a salary range.

Commissioner Fred Veigel said it will be up to the board what the new director is paid and that will be commensurate with a candidate’s experience.

“We’ll decide the salary, the three of us. This isn’t Wayne County. We don’t even know who internally will apply,” Veigel said in pushing for expanding the search to include external candidates.

Schwartz said that the new director will face “unique times,” including finances for the organization, a possible reorganization of the personnel and interlocal relationships with the elected county officials.

“I’d like to focus on internal candidates first, then go externally. My bias is clearly for someone within the organization first,” he said.

The board agreed to post the opening internally as well as in the County Road Commission Association newsletter and on the Washtenaw Road Commission website.

Officials set a Nov. 23 deadline for letters of interest and resumes and plans to conduct interviews the first week of December. They hope to choose a new managing director at the Dec. 8 regular board meeting.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at


Pat Little

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

Steve is hard working person who over the years has successfully navigated Washtenaw County's political ups and downs. Thank you Steve for your hard work and vision. No one, in this job, can make everyone happy. You have done the best that anyone could do! Good luck!


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:31 a.m.

Not good enough, you failed Steve and all your "good buddy's" failed too. We can see it in the roads, they speak for themselves. And placing the blame elsewhere doesn't cut it.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 3:52 a.m.

As the outgoing road commissioner, maybe Mr. Puuri could tell us why, after 5 or 6 property tax millages over the past ten years, the potholes in our road are killers, our bridges are falling apart, and yet another "millage" is needed to "fix" the problem. And nothing but "good" things to be said for the guy who drove the bus for 25 years and the roads have sucked the whole time? We definitely have an accountability issue in our bloated beaucracy.

Conan Smith

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

Actually, the County Road Commission is not funded by local millages but by state formula from gas tax and vehicle registrations. That revenue has not kept pace with the maintenance needs of our roads for several reasons, among them 1) the increasing costs of materials and labor, 2) the decline in the driving population in Michigan, 3) improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and 4) an ever-increasing number of lane miles across the state. Steve has been an intense advocate at the state level to address these problems for a decade. If you want better roads, fix the broken planning and funding systems. Budget for the life-cycle costs of roads, not just their construction. Fund less expensive alternatives to roads where they will work. And, yes, put enough money on the table to at least maintain what we've got -- something that not even the generous people of Washtenaw County have been able to do (and may not be able to do given the extent of the problem).


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

I've driven in North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and a number of other "cold" states. We've got a problem in Michigan. Expensive? It seems Michigan has one mode of excuse for failure, "we need more money" instead we need more accountability that results in job loss for incompetance and prison for corruption. Pretty simple. Again, the "roads" speak for themselves.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

One thought: because roads are REALLY, REALLY, REALLY expensive, we allow more weight/axle than most states and more people are driving on the roads than ever. SNAP, you are encouraged to run for county council, then YOU can attack the bloating.