Union County commissioners recognized Emily Wieringa as the county engineer's 2011 employee of the year at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Union County commissioners recognized Emily Wieringa as the county engineer's 2011 employee of the year at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Engineer Jeff Stauch said Wieringa was selected "because of her ability to bring people together to help solve problems, her diverse skills and dependability.

"Emily's sense of humor, energy and inviting personality help others enjoy being a part of our team," he said.

Wieringa graduated in 1999 from Purdue University with a degree in civil engineering, but she said her education began long before she entered college.

"Both my grandfather and my father were engineers," Wieringa said. "We couldn't drive anywhere without stopping at every construction site to have a look around. Apples don't fall far from the trees many times."

Unlike many of her female classmates, Wieringa not only enjoyed math and science but was encouraged to pursue the subjects by her entire family.

"My mom pushed me, too," she said. "I was good at math and science, so engineering was a good fit for me."

Upon graduation, Wieringa worked for Thomas & Marker Construction on projects in central Ohio, including the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. During that time, she returned to Purdue and participated in outreach programs in local high schools.

"I'd be there to encourage high school girls to study math and science and to pursue engineering degrees at the university level," she said. "And I would always get moms who would ask me, 'How can you possibly balance being a mother and an engineer?'"

While admitting it wasn't easy, Wieringa - the mother of 6-year-old Lydia and 2-year-old Lana - insisted there can be a balance between the two.

"The important thing, I think, is doing something you're passionate about," she said.

Stauch praised his employee of the year for her recent work on the $3.3-million relocation of Industrial Parkway, which has called on nearly all of her considerable skill-set.

"She's had to work with property owners, contractors, funding sources, all sorts of different personalities. She has had to acquire rights of way. That was before work even began," he said. "And since we broke ground, she's been on site as our inspector."

Wieringa said gaining the respect of her male colleagues hasn't always been easy.

"It was different when I was young. More difficult. But I have always been comfortable hanging out with the guys, so that's helped," she said. "I think on site, if you're respectful, then you'll get respect back. And as I've gotten older, I've gained more confidence. Having a few gray hairs now has helped."

She adheres strictly to one important rule: "There's no crying in construction."

The commissioners' citation described Wieringa as "self-motivated, a hard worker, and an excellent representative of the Engineer's Department."

She said the award was gratifying but runs counter to the thrust of any engineering project.

"I don't necessarily like it when one person is singled out, since the thing I love most about my job is working as a team," she said. "The greatest thing is when everyone comes together for one common goal."

When informed she has been credited with a terrific sense of humor, Wieringa demurred: "It sounds like I'm a real joker. Maybe they were talking about my sarcasm. I do think humor can be a good dose of medicine. In this business, you will come up against things you can't change. You have to play the cards you've been dealt. That's when it can help to throw things into a humorous light."