Cindy Roberson will celebrate her retirement Monday, after 31 years with the Madison County Road and Bridge Department. | Courtesy photo
REXBURG — As the first woman ever hired by the Madison County Road and Bridge Department to drive trucks and operate heavy machinery, Cindy Roberson felt like she had something to prove when she started the job 31 years ago.
“Other than the secretary, I was the only woman down here at the Road and Bridge, and it was a man’s world,” Roberson says. “They were kinda tough talkers when I first walked in. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what have I gotten myself into?’”
But Roberson says most of the all-male crew accepted her right away, and it didn’t take long for her to feel like she was right where she was supposed to be.
“I found out that they were wonderful to work with,” she says. “We became a family. It was good.”
In the early days, Roberson came home from work every night feeling sore. It wasn’t in her arms, shoulders, or back from the physically demanding job (though it was very demanding). It was in her cheeks and her ribcage.
“I couldn’t figure out what was going on with that, and then one morning I started laughing and my cheeks and my ribcage started hurting and I realized it was these men!” Roberson says.
Three decades of laughter later, Roberson is ready to call it good so she can spend more time with her husband, Richard (retired from the U.S. Forest Service), her four children, and her 12 grandchildren. She’s looking forward to lots of fishing trips with her grandchildren.
The public is invited to celebrate Roberson’s 31 years of service at a retirement party Monday at 2 p.m. Madison County Commissioners Meeting Room, 153 E. Main Street, Rexburg.
Roberson says her first supervisor at the Road and Bridge, Dusty Cureton, took a chance on her when he hired her as the first woman for the job.
When Cindy Roberson was hired to work for Madison County Road and Bridge 31 years ago, she was the first and only woman on the crew. | Courtesy photo
“That was a big step for him to even think about it,” she says.
The two knew each other from Roberson’s time working in the payroll office for the Madison County Clerk. Roberson says she needed a higher-paying job and asked Cureton to consider her if he ever had an opening.
As the first and only woman on the crew at the time, Roberson felt she had to prove that she belonged and that she was willing to do the hard work. Right away, she started driving trucks, operating giant rollers and working the chipping machine.
One of the more physically challenging parts of the job was repairing her own tires. The task required a lot of strength to disassemble and reassemble the tires. Roberson was determined to do that and all the other demanding jobs without asking for help from the rest of the crew.
While most of her coworkers were happy to have her, Roberson says she had to earn the trust of a few. She went out of her way to show that she was there to work hard.
“I had to work as hard as the men and I could not complain because I didn’t want them to say, ‘Well, she gets the easier jobs,’” Roberson says. “I did not want that. I wanted to be an equal. If I was getting the same wage as the man was, then I felt like I had to do the same job. So, I really tried hard not to ask for help. I wanted to make sure I did what I was expected to do.”
Roberson spent 15 years as the secretary for the Idaho Association of County Engineers and Road Supervisors and has transitioned to a supervisory role with the Road and Bridge Department. Now she works alongside fellow supervisor Rio Jensen.
“He works out with the crew, and I do the budgets, the payrolls and the grants,” she says.
Roberson says the grants she has worked on have brought in more than $10 million for the county.
“We have tried to put in for every grant that we possibly can, to help save funds for the county,” she says. “If we have a specific job that we know we’re going to have to do, like replacement of a bridge, the federal funds help pay for a percentage of that bid.”
Current projects in Madison County that are partially funded by those grants include a new bridge in the Moody area and a new frontage road on the west side of U.S. Highway 20 that runs from Thornton all the way to Madison High School in Rexburg.
“That will really help our county and the kids to move from the high school area out to the Archer area,” Roberson says. “It will help the farmers go back and forth a little easier.”
Madison County Commissioner Todd Smith has worked with Roberson frequently in his 11 years on the commission. He says Roberson is highly regarded locally and with those she has worked with at the Idaho Transportation Department and the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council.
“Cindy is just a great employee,” Smith says. “She’s very well-respected by her workers out there, and by others around the state. She’s been very valuable.”
Roberson hopes to see lots of familiar faces at her retirement celebration Monday.
“We’d love to see anybody that I’ve worked with over the years,” she says. “It’s a group effort, it’s not just me. It’s with their help that I was able to do these things for the county.”
The post One of the first women to work for Madison County Road and Bridge retires after 31 years appeared first on East Idaho News.