The county is seeking a new road foreman and highway superintendent following the death of its former supervisor.

In the meantime, Jay County Commissioners have hired two workers from Jay County Highway Department on an interim basis.

Bob Howell and Terry Howell — although their last names are identical, there is no relation — are taking over as highway superintendent and road foreman, respectively.

“I’ve got confidence in both of them, I think they can handle it,” said commissioner Chad Aker, noting he and commissioner Rex Journay will also help oversee operations along with officials from surrounding counties.

Plans are to advertise the positions for permanent employees. Aker mentioned both Bob and Terry, who are assigned to their interim roles for 90 days, are both welcome to apply for the jobs.

The decision made at a special meeting Friday comes after the death of former highway superintendent Donnie Corn, 49. He died Monday following complications from a heart attack.

Corn, a Portland resident, worked for the highway department for nine years before taking over as superintendent from Ken Wellman. He served in the role for just over three years.

“I consider it an honor that you’ve asked me to step up to his — fill his shoes for this period of time,” said Bob Howell. “I’m open to anything and any help I can get from you guys, and I’ll do the best I can.”

Bob is a Portland native and 1998 graduate of Jay County High School. He worked as a heavy equipment operator for 14 years before being promoted to road foreman a little more than a year ago.

Terry, originally from Randolph County, has lived in Jay County for about 25 years. He currently lives in Dunkirk. For just over a year, he’s been working as a heavy equipment operator at the highway department.

Both county employees expressed their sentiments for Corn’s untimely death.

“There (were) a lot of heavy hearts,” said Bob. “It was really surprising to me, you know, when you work for somebody (for so long).”

“He was a guy that was very concerned about his workers and took care of his workers, didn’t he?” added Terry. “That was more important to him than anything else.”

Bob noted part of Corn’s work included applying for grants and other revenue streams for the county, such as Community Crossings grants. (One example includes a $1 million Community Crossings grant the county received from Indiana Department of Transportation in April for road improvements.)

During the transition, former county engineer Dan Watson — he resigned his position at the end of 2020 and pursued a position with engineering firm Beam, Longest and Neff — has reached out to offer his assistance as needed, according to commissioner Brian McGalliard.

Brad Yoder, superintendent of Adams County Highway Department, and others have also aided the department throughout the week. Bob and Terry both thanked surrounding county officials, businesses and others who have stepped up to help in the interim.

“I know there’s going to be some challenges, but I’m open the same as Donnie was. I’m open to hear what the public’s concerns are,” said Bob.