Montrose County road foreman taking top spots at national competitions

Rusty Catlin
Rusty Catlin(KKCO)
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 10:04 AM MDT
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MONTROSE, Colo. (KJCT) - When you see construction crews digging a hole with a backhoe on the side of the road, you might think digging a hole isn’t hard. While that may be true, digging a hole properly is a different story.

Rusty Catlin is a road foreman for Montrose County. Growing up on a farm, he said he was no stranger to heavy equipment.

“I like construction, always have,” said Catlin. “I grew up in equipment, you know, started out on the farm. I grew up on a tractor all my life. You can’t beat a piece of equipment being entered all day long.”

Earlier this summer, Catlin and some coworkers competed at the Colorado American Public World Association West Slope and Colorado Association for Road Maintenance (CARMA) Spring Street Conference in Grand Junction. Catlin took home the top spot, earning him a spot at the national championship in Charlotte, NC.

At the national event Catlin placed tenth in the excavator event and fifth in the backhoe event.

“I was real proud that I placed that good,” said Catlin. “I really didn’t think I would place that good.” What’s ironic about Catlin’s wins is the fact he never thought he would participate.

“I thought it was a waste of time,” said Catlin. “But now seeing how the competitions are going, I think it’s a real good test for all the guys doing it.”

Catlin admits the contests don’t really have much to do with the actual work they do on the job. But rather, they show just what the operator can do with the equipment.

“On a backhoe, you had to pick up a pipe with your teeth of the backhoe and there was a either a triangle or a square box that you picked up,” said Catlin. “Then you had come over and put that triangle or square exactly in the middle of itself. And then let go the chain without moving anything.”

Since his win in North Carolina though, Catlin said many people have reached out to him with congratulations.

“I’ve had phone calls for a couple weeks now getting congratulated on everything I did,” said Catlin. “And it really doesn’t sink into you until you get those calls.”

A week after he was interviewed with KJCT, he and more of his coworkers competed at another national roadeo in Loveland. Catlin took home the first-place spot in the skid steer event and his coworker Shan Stratton took second.

Though Catlin said winning the competitions doesn’t change much in his life, he said it speaks bigger volumes to the talent Montrose County employees have.

“A lot of people think the county and state are backup jobs, and there’s a lot of talent here with the county and state,” said Catlin. “It’s not just the independents or the big companies. A lot of our county and state guys and [city guys], they all have a lot of talent with them.”

That sentiment is something Catlin’s coworkers share.

“These guys, day to day, face challenges out in the field,” said Brandon Wallace, Montrose County Road and Bridge Superintendent. “Whether it’s paving a dirt road to even cutting snowpack and ice with these motor graders or all these a piece of equipment we have. When you go to equipment rodeo, it challenges those takes them to the next level. It’s very meticulous, very mentally draining actually.”

Wallace said each of the roadeos also have seminars and conferences, where the operators can keep up to date with the latest technology available for heavy equipment.

“The equipment changes,” said Wallace. “So, that requires my operators to have a good knowledge of what’s going to change and how they can adapt to that.”

Wallace said it’s that knowledge that makes all the difference when it comes to the work the Montrose County road crews perform.

“Digging a hole anybody can do,” said Wallace. “But to do it safely and efficiently and ultimately get the end result you’re looking for; safety is a big issue. A hole is not safe.”

And at the end of the day, Wallace said his employees are very dedicated to their work.

“They’re very professional, they take what they do very seriously,” said Wallace. “Whether it’s training to even just go to conferences, learning new technology, you know? This is our home; these guys take utmost pride in it.”

To see our previous article about Rusty Catlin please visit.

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