A well-known local official known for his ability to inject humor into situations and make road projects a little bit more palatable for motorists is retiring.

Managing Director Mike Craine started working for the Livingston County Road Commission in June of 1981. After 38 years, he’s reached the end of the road and will retire this Friday. Prior to his current role, Craine worked in the county Planning Department. He started in that post in 1973 doing planning work for future facilities and budgeting before moving on to the Road commission. He says safety is the product they always try to deliver and build safe roads but admits that driving today is terrifying with so much flagrant texting and a general lack of driving manners.

Craine says there have been a lot of changes over the years in both technology and the tools they have to understand the nature of the road system. He says they’ve been fortunate in being able to recruit and retain good people and is happy to be leaving a full, solid team at the Road Commission. Craine says many are local natives and genuinely like being able to make progress for neighbors, family and friends. He says they have a tremendous group of people that have done a great job moving the agency forward. As for changes and improvements over the years, Craine says the advancements in technology are amazing, noting how much more sophisticated and responsive things are on the equipment side - which is where he feels they have been able to make the biggest amount of change. There have also been changes with what it takes to design a roadway and the level of effort and time people put in. Craine says with modern equipment and electronic drafting there have been both cost savings in design but also much more careful attention can be spent on critical issues – freeing up labor that used to be associated with drawing boards. When it comes to achievements, he tells WHMI it’s actually the cornball stuff – not the road or bridge project because those are just things. To him, it’s more about the effect that human beings have on each other and just a simple, unexpected thank you from someone.

There are also always challenges and Craine says the road problem is a money problem and that’s all it is. Road Commissions cannot levy a millage to and have to rely on the Legislature for funding, which Craine says is tricky business depending who is in office and what the metrics are. He says the road funding situation continues to be miserable and he finds the current dialogue in Lansing somewhat discouraging in how some people are trying to shape the conversation. Craine tells WHMI a lot of roads are not getting any better and they can keep them somewhat maintained but to make the big gains people want to see would be a lot of money. He said the Governor’s proposal to institute a 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax put people off but that is the size of the problem and it won’t get any cheaper and people need to face the fact that infrastructure funding has tanked for the past 30 years in the state. He added that it’s not just roads but storm sewer, water pipes, sanitary sewers, public electric utilities and the whole range of services that support the quality of life in a community. Craine says he does wish there was also a better system in Michigan of coordinating land-use decisions with physical infrastructure decisions. He says there are times they’re confronted with major development plans and then have to figure out a way to resolve things but are sometimes not as happy with that resolution versus if there more time and study had gone in to it.

As for retirement plans, Craine says he’ll spend more time with family and keep busy with grandkids but also plans to dedicate more time toward his secret vice and hobby – photographing
building fragments. He refers to them as pieces of ingenuity when it comes to the different things someone has done to make things work such as gas valves or getting inside the metal. Craine will be succeeded by Deputy Director Steve Wasylk - a longtime employee who started out as a utilities engineer. Around 14 years ago, Craine says Wasylk took over on the operation side of things involving road, fleet and equipment maintenance. In more recent years, Craine says Wasylk stepped up and started doing finance and budget related duties – adding he is well-rounded, grew up in Michigan and is a registered engineer. (JM)