For the first time in the history of Bradley County, a woman will be in charge of keeping roadways and rights of way in check.
Sandra Norton-Knight was elected to take the place of retiring Bradley County Road Superintendent Tom Collins.
Collins said he has been working with the new superintendent to make one of the smoothest transitions possible, and he plans to stay on with the Bradley County Road Department a little longer — before he proceeds with his plans to farm and fish in the summer, and hunt in the winter.
Knight will have a challenge ahead of her as she continues to oversee the road department with essentially the same line item spending amount Collins has had since he won the position 16 years ago.
“Back then, asphalt product was $17 a ton. Today it’s $50 a ton,” Knight said.
Collins said the only good thing about those figures is the fact he has gotten a lot of roadways in Bradley County up to speed and with the efforts of the past, the cycle time due to a better engineered product should decrease the need for major road repairs.
Knight began her career in engineering after graduating with a degree in civil engineering. That was 28 years ago.
She traveled to Florida and worked with the Florida Department of Transportation as a project engineer and project manager, working with consultants.
Then she moved back to Tennessee and worked for the city of Chattanooga where she engineered site design, bridge development, and road and utilities design.
After that, she came back home to Bradley County, and for the past 18 years has filled the role of county engineer.
Knight has her professional engineers’ license and continues her education in her field.
“Right now, our goal is to keep up with what we have, because we know we have less to work with,” Knight said regarding the rising costs of materials and other items.
Knight said she will be working to control costs.
The department is in good shape.
Equipment inventory is possibly the best it has ever been, according to Collins.
“We also have a great crew and good working relationship with the employees of the department,” Knight said.
During her county engineer days, Knight has worked closely in the past with BCRD.
“I worked with BCRD on any projects that dealt with roads,” said Knight.
Knight has design experience and will be able to spot issues or flaws as they are presented.
This will be a big asset to BCRD.
Collins said design of projects is typically outsourced.
“With her knowledge, Sandra will be able to help out in the design phase,” Collins said.
Knight said she feels one of Bradley County’s basic infrastructure needs is more east-west connectors, as growth in the area continues.