Knox County has one of two women highway commissioners
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By MITCH PRENTICE
The (Galesburg) Register-Mail
DELONG, Ill. (AP) _ Elizabeth Bragg didn't see herself becoming the highway commissioner of Orange Township until her sister recommended she run for the position. She wasn't serious about the opportunity at first, but after recognizing her potential in the position, she started to invest herself into the role and would win the vote in April 2017.
On a day-to-day basis, Bragg finds herself running through many of the roads she is accountable for and making sure there aren't any major problems. This includes issues such as needing rock replaced on gravel roads, making sure road signs are visible and checking to see if roads are draining properly after heavy rain. She takes aid from her husband and other helpers when it is available, but most of the time, these fixes require her to simply get into a machine and fix it herself.
``I have 52 miles of road to cover, 95 percent of which are gravel,'' Bragg said. ``There's a lot of rock to haul.''
Bragg had been running heavy equipment for much of her life before taking the commissioner position, aiding in her sister's recommendation to run. She had worked for the state and the Illinois Department of Transportation for 11 seasons, which included work with snow plows and gravel trucks. With all of this experience behind her, there was one large obstacle still to jump: being female.
Out of more than 1,400 townships in Illinois, there are currently only two female highway commissioners (including Bragg). Going into the voting process, Bragg was well aware of this imbalance, though she felt confident in her chances.
``I've grown up in a man's world,'' she said. ``I was driving a semi at 19. You just have to earn their respect. When the guys know that you know what you're doing, things become a lot easier.''
Bragg's husband and father-in-law own Bragg Bulldozing and Excavating, which is part of her part-time work. She worked for this company running field tile for farmers all around Knox County. This led to a plethora of connections that Bragg was able to make over her years in the business. She feels as though she knows nearly 90 percent of the people residing in her township, and has worked for close to 50 percent of them. She believes this understanding between them has led to faith in her ability to run this operation.
Though she won the vote, Bragg understands there are still many people who didn't vote for her in the election. She hopes to prove herself in their eyes over the course of her position by showing progression. She believes she has been making a lot of improvement in the roads during her short time thus far and wants to continue this trend.
She hopes going forward that this recognition will inspire other women in the community to seek out opportunities and try their best. Having two daughters herself, her position has always been to stick with them at every turn and let them be whatever they strive for. Her older daughter is in school to become a chiropractor and her younger daughter is still in high school. More than anything, Bragg has tried to teach them that they need to work for every opportunity that comes and be happy with their choices.
``I think you need to do a job you're happy with, or else your life is going to suck,'' Bragg said. ``Find something you love, because if not, you're just working to work.''
Though she's not sure where the road will take her in the next four years before re-election, Bragg is confident that she will learn her role quickly. She knows the hard work to keep the roads in good condition is a requirement and is ready to get out and start making a difference.
Source: The (Galesburg) Register-Mail, http://bit.ly/2uP2QLD
Information from: The Register-Mail, http://www.register-mail.com
By The Associated Press, Copyright 2018