Lake County mourns death of tough but fair road manager
Lake County mourns loss of longtime transportation planner Dusty Powell
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Lake County residents may not personally have known Delmer "Dusty" Powell but they likely are familiar with his work.
"Look all around Gurnee, all those four- and five-lane roads," County Administrator Barry Burton said. "A lot of those were county roads and he held developers accountable."
Powell, 59, died Wednesday. The Gurnee resident worked for Lake County in top administrative positions, including assistant county administrator and deputy director of planning, from March 1985 until retiring early this year.
But it was as director of planning and programming for the Lake County Division of Transportation where his impact was directly felt. He worked in that division for 20 years, much of it during a time of explosive growth.
Burton said Powell was tough but fair with developers, and he was respected as someone whose word was his bond.
"It wasn't ego. He wanted to make the county better," Burton said. "When I said, `Dusty' they said, `Tough, but what a great guy.'"
Powell was handling federal road funds part-time for both Kane and Lake counties when he caught the attention of Marty Buehler, former longtime Lake County engineer. Impressed with his abilities, Buehler arranged for Powell to work full-time for Lake County, managing programming and agreements for highway projects.
"He was brilliant, very smart and always could find a way to solve a problem," Buehler said. "He was kind of direct (but) he actually was a teddy bear, so to speak, easily moved by peoples' emotions."
Buehler pointed to the road work around Gurnee Mills and the extension of Rollins Road to Grand Avenue as examples of Powell's expertise.
"It was a big change for the area," Buehler said.
Wanting to try something different, Powell left the transportation division in late 2005 for the county administrator's office. He moved to the planning, building and development department in late 2010.
"Dusty has his fingerprints all over Lake County and we're all the better for it," Burton said.
Buehler said Powell's interests included history and golf.
Powell is survived by his wife, Lore; two children and three stepchildren; and, his parents. Visitation is 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Marsh Funeral Home, 305 N. Cemetery Road, Gurnee until funeral services at 7 p.m.
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