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Houston County Living

Pillar of the Community

Jul 28, 2021 10:03PM ● By David Pena
     In her book, Awakening the Dream Within, Pat Patrick states that, in life, we leave a legacy to our children, we leave our footprints wherever we travel, but we leave our fingerprints on every heart we
touch. Someone who has definitely left his fingerprints on many of the hearts in Houston County is a man named Van Herrington. Quiet and unassuming, Van has worked for the Department of Transportation and Houston County Public works for over half a century helping lead the way on many of the project developments in Houston County. However, there is much more to Van Herrington than meets the eye.
     Jim Perdue, Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, has known Van for most of his life and was actually a student in his Sunday School class as a youngster. While he says that his impact on Houston County is immeasurable, he stresses that Van prefers to work outside of the spotlight. “So many people here have been impacted by Van Herrington, but they might not even know his name. That’s because he’s not there to get the credit; he just wants to get things done.”
     Born in Cordele, Van moved to Houston County in 1950, graduating from Warner Robbins High School in 1961. An excellent baseball player in his teens, Van had some college scouts’ attention until an injury sidelined him, but he was content to stay in the area. “The Lord blessed me with the ability to be an athlete, and I’ve always considered Houston County my home,” he says. “It’s where my family is and where my church is.” 
      Van began working for the Georgia Department of Transportation fresh out of high school. He recalls that he started at the very bottom of the chain…literally. “I didn’t know anything about the work at the beginning; all I knew about roads was that they were something you drove on,” he chuckles. “I started as part of a survey crew, holding the chain for the crew to plant stakes. From there, I just continued to learn on the job.”      After a few years, Van began doing inspections in Perry, making sure that contractors’ work was up to code. “I traveled to each of the sites to make sure the quality of work was being maintained,” he says.
     After venturing into some accounting work, Van ended up in Thomaston for a few years at the State Aid Department. After stints in Atlanta and Macon, Van landed the Assistant Area Engineer position in Perry and then ultimately became the Area Engineer for five counties. “I feel that I became well-rounded throughout my career, which has certainly served me better in the long run,” he says.
     Through the years, Van was part of some major renovations on the highways and roadways that keep
   Georgia moving. “Vineville Avenue was one old road in Macon we did that needed renovation,” he recalls. “Once it was finished, it turned out great, although it was an unorthodox construction method at the time.” During his time with the DOT, Van implemented many projects that involved widening and improving roads and their drainage all over the state, including I75 and Russell Parkway.
     “Without folks like my dad, our community would not be where it is at today,” explains Van’s son Brian, a subcontractor for Houston County’s public works. Brian has worked alongside his father on many of the projects that have helped this area to grow. “He has helped to build around 70 % of the infrastructural roads in Houston
County. No one around can build a road like he can.”
      Van retired from the DOT in 1993 after 34 years of service, an Employee of the Year in 1982; however, his retirement was short-lived. Tommy Stalnaker, Chairman of the county’s Board of Commissioners, convinced Van to then begin working for the county that same year. “Van Herrington is one of the most dedicated and hardest working individuals I have ever worked with,” he says. “He has high Christian values and is fair and considerate. His contributions have greatly enhanced the infrastructure in Houston County, and he is a valued friend of mine.”
     While working for the county, Van supervised a great deal of the residential development off of Highway 96 during the boom of the late 90s, helping to design the drainage and roads in many of the county’s newer subdivisions. “I have to give a special thanks to Billy Gray and the time we worked together with the county,” says
     “Everyone knew the value of my dad’s expertise,” adds Brian. “He’s the easiest guy to get along with,
  but don’t try to cut corners when you’re working with him. Because of him and his team, people can now get to where they need to be in a more efficient and safe way on the roads in this county.”
     Robbie Dunbar, Director of Operations, says, “Van is a public servant in the truest sense of the word. His conscientiousness and attention to detail have saved taxpayers millions of dollars over the last fifty plus years. Additionally, he has provided leadership and guidance to contractors and engineers in both their professional and personal lives. I am blessed to have been the personal recipient of both.”
     For all his work on the roadways, it was his time outside of work at church that Van says he really felt he has made a difference. He became a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Second Baptist Church 25 years ago. “I started to go to the church right after moving to Warner Robins,” he recalls. “I just love serving, and the softball ministry is what really moved me. It meant so much to me, and I hope it was a blessing to them.”
      Countless number of folks were saved at these postgame testimonies, and thanks to Van’s efforts, some even went on to become pastors themselves. Pastor Jim Perdue was particularly impressed with Van’s leadership while coaching the men’s softball teams. “The Bombers won several state championships under his guidance,” he says. Van was also instrumental in getting many of his players to get involved in the church, along with their families. His after game testimonies were pivotal in the lives of many of the congregation.
     For Van, however, his family has always come first. His wife Sarah and their children are a major source of pride for him. Van and Sarah have been married for 54 years, and their daughter, Andrea McGee, serves as a principal in the Houston County School District. His son, Brian, has followed in his footsteps, working on Houston County’s roads. “He has always been such a godly man and is always willing to help others, especially kids,” says Sarah. “Of course, Van takes his job very seriously, but it’s ironic that with all his work all over the state, he’s not a person who likes to travel.”
     “My dad is one of the most highly respected men that I know,” continues an emotional Brian. “I’ve
  never heard anyone say anything bad about him. I don’t really think I can thank him enough for what he’s done for me. I’ve been really blessed to have him as a father.”
     At nearly 80 years young, Van still enjoys working full-time for the county. Now in his 22nd year with the county, he says he still goes out in the field daily. Plus, since he doesn’t hunt or fish, work is what gives him the most pleasure. “As long as I enjoy it, I’ll keep doing it,” he explains. “It pleases me when you drive on a new road that used to just be a patch of woods. Along with my family and work as a deacon, my job has been a great source of fulfillment to me. Overall, I’d have to say my life has been a blessing, and I’m just happy to serve others while I’m here.”

Photography by: Tinika Bennett Photography