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Upshur County engineer resigns; commissioner will seek county road administrator job

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GILMER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) — Upshur County Engineer Eric Fisher tendered his resignation Tuesday, effective next Wednesday, and lame-duck Pct. 1 County Commissioner James Crittenden announced Friday he will seek the job of county road administrator if no qualified engineer applies to replace Fisher.

The Upshur County Commissioners Court meets in special session at 10 a.m. Monday to accept Fisher's resignation, and possibly provide for "temporary administration of the Road and Bridge Department." The court will also consider authorizing the acceptance of applications for "road and bridge engineer/administrator," and hold a closed session on personnel.
Fisher, who is 37 and has been county engineer slightly more than two years, resigned to rejoin his former employer, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), as a design team manager in Greenville.

He said Friday he submitted his resignation by email to county commissioners, solely to take a job that offers "better opportunity, better provisions for my family." He lives in Tyler.

As for his tenure in Upshur County, Fisher said, "All I can say is that the Road and Bridge Department has some really good employees. They tackled some (of) what I consider some high-level construction methods without much appreciation from anybody around."

Crittenden announced his interest in being road administrator in a phone call to a representative of the Tyler Morning Telegraph. The commissioner, who lost his bid for a third term to Paula Gentry in last July's Republican runoff, ends his term Dec. 31. (Ms. Gentry was elected commissioner without opposition in the Nov. 6 general election).

"If I'm considered, or if any administrative position is considered, it's going to be a savings to the county" to have an administrator rather than an engineer, Crittenden said. Bubba Pendarvis, who was road administrator before being replaced by Fisher, earned about $45,000 annually while engineer Fisher was paid about $65,000, Crittenden said.

"I understand the financial position of the county, being a sitting commissioner," said Crittenden, who said he would know he must work within the current Road and Bridge budget "and not expect any more."

While admitting he is inexperienced in road building, Crittenden said an administrator has "to know how to operate a piece of equipment, and there's several pieces of equipment out there" he knows how to use. In addition, "In reality, your administrator is not going to be out there building roads. He's going to be overseeing and supervising."

Crittenden said he would consult with a current commissioner and incoming commissioner in Gregg County, and with the Harrison County road engineer, to gain knowledge, as he has in the past.

"The number one concern to the citizens of Upshur County is their roads, and that would be my focus if appointed to that position," he added.

Crittenden was among three commissioners who lauded Fisher's performance Friday.

"I hate to see him go, and I've enjoyed the relationship the two of us have had. And I hope the citizens have appreciated the fact that they have had an engineer that they voted for back in 2002 to fill this position," he said. (Crittenden referred to voter approval of the county unit road system).

He said he would seek to be road administrator only if a qualified engineer did not apply.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner and Pct. 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer also praised Fisher. Both took office only a few months after he did.

"This (the resignation) all shocked us. . .no warning, no nothing," Hefner said. "He and I had a great relationship, great working relationship, and I've been pleased.

"When I expressed needs to him, he responded well," Hefner added. He also said Fisher "communicated well."

Said Spencer, "(I) hate to see him go on such short notice. . .I think he had things planned out very well."

"He caught me off guard," Pct. 3 Commissioner Lloyd Crabtree said, "All I can do is wish him well."

Crabtree said Fisher was looking out for his future, and "the way things have been with the county lately, there's not much future there."

County Judge Dean Fowler, who called Monday's special meeting, declined comment Friday on Fisher's resignation. Fowler was en route home Friday from attending a school.

Said Fisher, "I had a good relationship with both Cole and Mike and the judge … I'll miss working with" them.
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