Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — Jefferson County’s new county engineer has a few decades of experience building roads but is also just a few years out of college.
DeWayne Heintz enrolled at Iowa State University in the fall of 1981 to study civil engineering. Before completing his degree, he had the opportunity to work for his father’s asphalt company, Cedar Valley Asphalt, in his hometown of Fairfax, just outside Cedar Rapids. He agreed to work as an estimator and project manager for one year before deciding whether to return to school.
One year turned into two, which turned into three, and in 2013, Heintz turned 50 years old. He had spent the last 25 years at his father’s company but had never finished his degree. That’s when Heintz looked at himself in the mirror and said, “When are you going back to school, smart guy?”
Heintz was happy with his career and didn’t need a degree to perform his job, but he felt the need to finish what he started in Ames three decades earlier. By then, his parents had sold the asphalt business to the L.L. Pelling Company, though Heintz kept his job as an estimator and project manager. In the fall of 2014, Heintz re-enrolled at ISU, picking up where he left off in 1987.
For the next two years, Heintz had a grueling daily schedule of waking up at 2 a.m. to study for a couple of hours, followed by a few hours of work at his job, then a two-hour commute from Cedar Rapids to Ames. Heintz was able to work in between classes, too, since there was much he could do over the internet and on the phone. In the spring of 2016, 35 years after his first college classes, Heintz graduated from ISU.
Heintz had not contemplated a career as a county engineer until a few months ago when he met up with an old friend, Andrew McGuire, the county engineer for Keokuk County. McGuire told him there were a number of vacancies at county engineering positions across the state and suggested Heintz apply for the opening in Jefferson County. Heintz said it wouldn’t work because his wife would never agree to move from the Cedar Rapids area, since they have so many relatives close by. But after negotiations with the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors, the board decided that Heintz could keep his home in Linn County and commute to Jefferson County.
The commute doesn’t bother Heintz, since he was accustomed to driving long distances to survey projects at his old job.
“I basically have the same day I had before, but now my blood pressure has dropped, and I can sleep at night,” said Heintz, remarking on the reduced stress he’s felt since he began work as Jefferson County Engineer July 1.
Heintz replaced Scott Cline, who stepped down from his post as county engineer June 30. Heintz said Cline left the department, and especially its budget, in good shape.
Heintz has worked in road construction in one form or another since he was 12 years old in 1976 when he began working for his father’s asphalt company as a “shovel jockey.” His older brother had been working for their dad for a couple of years, and Heintz wanted to follow in his footsteps. He said the pay was good, $1.40 an hour, and he saved his paychecks to purchase a Schwinn Varsity bicycle, which he has kept to this day and still rides.
In his second year at Iowa State, Heintz developed a passion for bull riding thanks to his friend Kyle Gilchrist, a man from Douds who is now a Red Angus auctioneer. Heintz said Gilchrist talked him into riding a bull. After about three jumps, the bull threw Heintz off its back and into a puddle.
Heintz found the experience thrilling and for the next five years toured the Midwest performing at rodeos. He said his part-time gig in rodeo didn’t mesh well with his studies, which is why he had to take some time off before leaving Ames to work for his father.
Heintz has fond memories of his days in rodeo, and has a few photos from that era hanging in his Fairfield office.