Taking the lead

Nicole Stinn always had a love of math and science. Little did she know that would one day lead her to be one of four female county engineers in the state of Iowa. Stinn took the position of Hamilton County Engineer on Oct. 15.

“I always liked math and science and was pretty good at it, so once I got to where I needed to start thinking about college and what I wanted to do for a career, I wasn’t extremely passionate about civil engineering in particular, but was familiar with it and thought it would be fun to do,” said Stinn.

Stinn’s father is the tech for Cass County and would let Stinn tag along to road and bridge projects while she was growing up, giving her the opportunity to learn about the different processes that secondary roads go through.

“I always just thought that was cool and that I could do that,” said Stinn.

Stinn was formerly the assistant Hamilton County Engineer. She maintained that role for four months before taking over former county engineer Danny Waid’s position. She has been working for Hamilton County since June 6. Prior to working in Hamilton County, Stinn was the Tama Assistant County Engineer for six years.

Stinn is responsible for all facets of the secondary roads department.

This includes maintenance of gravel roads, maintenance and reconstruction of paved roads, road structure systems like bridges and culverts, and overseeing the drainage crew.

“We as a county are also responsible for all of the signs up along our roads. We take care of snow and ice operations in the winter, so I will be overseeing that, as well as developing the budget and construction plans for future projects.”

Stinn credits Waid with helping her adjust to a new county with a new perspective.

“In the short time I was here with Danny, I learned a lot from him too in terms of attitude and different ways at looking at problems and projects,” Stinn said.

Stinn has both short and long-term goals she hopes to achieve during her time as Hamilton County Engineer.

“In the immediate future, we’ve been working on a new bridge over the Boone River, a new crossing,” Stinn said. “It’s one of my priorities to make sure that project keeps moving and gets done. I think that’s a really important project for this area.”

Long-term, Stinn is ready to serve the county to the best of her abilities.

“My goal is really just to take care of the needs of this community in terms of what they need from our road system,” Stinn said. “I want to do it in a way that’s the most efficient, and the best use of people’s dollars. Just making sure that we are taking care of things we need to and keep everything running.”

Stinn hasn’t experienced much grief in her positions even though the engineering field is still heavily male-dominated.

“There hasn’t been a lot,” said Stinn. “Overall, my professional experiences were positive.”

Stinn’s first college internship with Snyder & Associates proved to have some ups and downs, however. Stinn was assisting with a city inspection for the city of Defiance concerning the installation of water mains. Her boss had to attend a city council meeting to “smooth over a couple of things” with the city.

“My project manager came to me one day and said he was going up to the city council meeting to smooth things over,” said Stinn. “I asked him what was wrong, and he said, ‘to put it frankly, they don’t like women.”

“So that was my first experience with that,” said Stinn, who was 19 at that time. “That was a little disconcerting. But I just shrugged it off. You just know that especially in a small area, it’s going to be a lot of people who were raised in a time where women didn’t step into traditionally male-dominated roles and they just don’t have that trust and understanding that women can do the job too.”

There haven’t been very many instances in which Stinn felt being a female in a male-dominated career field has held her back or affected her. She has overcome any instance by showing her competency in the work place.

“I’ve had a few contractors, that when they talked to me, I got the feeling that they don’t think I understand what they’re saying. It’s hard to know whether that’s a product of being female or whether it’s just a product of being young, or a combination of the two,” said Stinn.

“You just address that by talking competently back to them. Then they realize ‘okay, she gets what we’re saying,'” said Stinn. “She’s not dumb.”

Stinn grew up in Atlantic. After high school, Stinn went to Iowa State University and received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Stinn became a licensed, professional engineer in 2014.

Stinn, 28, currently resides north of Webster City with her husband, John, and 14-month-old son Henry. Her husband works as an agricultural engineer at Iowa Select Farms in Iowa Falls.

“So far people have been very welcoming and good to work with, so I really appreciate that,” said Stinn.

Stinn’s advice to young girls who aspire to go into math and science fields which are still more commonly male-dominated:

“You just follow your heart and do whatever you are interested in. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t and don’t feel like you can’t just because you’re a girl,” said Stinn. “You can do anything you want to. You may have to work harder to prove yourself. I feel like our country is moving in a direction where it’s much more accepted that women are stepping into more traditionally male-dominated roles,” said Stinn.

“If you work hard enough and you want to, you can overcome whatever challenges there are,” said Stinn.

Stinn encourages the public to visit her office at the Hamilton County Courthouse during open hours.

The courthouse is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed for the noon lunch hour. Individuals can also contact Stinn at nstinn@hamiltoncounty.org or call her office at (515) 832-9520.