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Lee Center duo put in combined 88 years

Clerk, road commissioner leave office

AMBOY – Lee Center Township residents won’t see Clifford Walter working the roads anymore. Last month, he retired after 36 years as road commissioner.

He said he enjoyed his years in the position, but “I don’t think I’m going to miss it.” During his last 4-year term, he said, the job became more like work.

Clifford, 76, decided against seeking another term in the April election; running unopposed, Bruce Setchell took Clifford’s place.

That wasn’t the only big change for the township, which is east of Amboy. Raynaldo Clark left as the township clerk after 52 years.

Combined, the two men logged 88 years of service for the township, which, with 593 people, is one of the smallest in Lee County.

Jan Bonnell, the new township clerk, had much good to say about the men.

“[Raynaldo] has been the driving force behind the township board longer than most people have lived in the township,” she said in an email. “His dedication is evident by the number of years of service. He has taken care of the township’s financial records while balancing the budget.”

As for Clifford, she said, he knows the township’s roads, bridges and ditches “like most people know the back of their hands.”

“He has been up all night plowing snow to make sure the children riding the bus to school arrive safely, as well as the commuters to work. He has been the township commissioner, mechanic, and the guy you go to when there is a problem,” she wrote.

Raynaldo was unavailable for an interview.

Thirty-three of the township’s 43 miles are paved. Many of them are heavily traveled by visitors to the nearby Woodhaven resort. In recent years, wind turbines became part of the township’s landscape, one of which is close to Clifford’s house.

Some say turbines’ noise bothers them. Clifford and his wife, Phyllis, say they don’t mind. When it gets really windy, they said, the turbine sounds like an airplane.

During snowstorms, Phyllis would take calls from residents while he was plowing roads. Sometimes, callers were cranky.

“I can’t plow everyone’s road first,” Clifford said.

In the 1980s, he helped found the Lee County Road Commissioners Association, which stills holds meetings where members can share ideas.

For some years, Lee Center Township combined with nearby government entities to buy equipment, which saved money.

Clifford is a big fan of townships, which some people consider relics that can be consolidated into other layers of government.

“If we didn’t do some of these roads, no one would,” he said. “If the county was in charge of the roads, people on the back roads wouldn’t get service.”

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