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History of the county engineer in Ohio

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The only elected CEs in the country

Editor’s note: At the 2007 meeting of the ASCE GeoInstitute in Denver, Warren Schlatter of Defiance County, Ohio, began his presentation on the county’s GRS bridge building plan by saying: “I like my job [as county engineer] and I’d like to keep doing it for a while. The thing is, that means I need to get elected every four years.”—Ron Bygness

The office of county engineer evolved from the important role played by county surveyors in the first decades of Ohio’s statehood in the early 1800s. Well into the 1800s, the county surveyor was charged with the oftendifficult task of clarifying land titles and boundaries.

By the mid-1800s, county surveyors became increasingly involved in transportation-related projects, specifically in the development of canals and roads. By the late 19th century, the major duty of the county surveyor was the building and maintenance of roads, bridges, and drainage ditches.

The office of county surveyor was established by the first Ohio General Assembly following the admission of Ohio to the Union in 1803. Whenever a new county was created, the county surveyor, recorder, prosecuting attorney, and clerk were appointed by a common court of appeals, which itself was appointed by the state Legislature.

In 1831, the Legislature voted to make the office elective because of the increased responsibilities it entailed. The law stated that a county surveyor would serve a term of three years, “if he so long behaved well and until his successor is elected and qualified.” Legislation passed in 1915 established a salary and conferred on the county surveyor the title “Resident Engineer for the State Highway Department.”

In 1928, the term of office was lengthened from three years to four. Then on Aug. 30, 1935, the title was changed to “County Engineer.” Today, only persons who hold registration certificates from the state of Ohio as both “Registered Professional Engineer” and “Registered Surveyor” qualify as candidates for the office of county engineer. Both accreditations require a minimum of a college degree in engineering and surveying, four years of experience in engineering and surveying, and 32 hours of testing.

Today, Ohio is the only state in the nation that elects its county engineers.

Source: County Engineers Association of Ohio

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