By Marianne Mueller


Rockton Township Highway Commissioner Matt Cuyler is retiring in May after 40 years of dedicated service to the Township.

Cuyler started working for the township in in May of 1981 as a regular labor person. While working under the Highway Commissioner Dick Thorton he performed the jobs of plowing and mowing. Per a recommendation from Thorton Cuyler was appointed to the township board 20 years later as Highway Commissioner. He ran for re-election winning each term.

Cuyler supervised two employees for many years and eventually a third was hired. He is one of only two Highway Commissioners to serve the public in the last 70 years.

“In my first 20 years while I was plowing and mowing I often thought about taking care of world hunger and helping poor people. I figured out every problem,”Cuyler said.

“Over the past 20 years subdivisions came in. When I first started there was a tree farm on Hononegah Road, by the Forest Preserve and a small airfield where airplane hangars could be seen off of Dorr Road. In those days the population was only around 3,000 to 3,500 people.”

Cuyler served as Head of the Winnebago County Commissioners Association for 15 years. “We would get together once a month to order stuff as a group and to find ways to keep the costs down,” Cuyler said. 

A sealcoating program was started which was the first in the state of IL. “This saved the township $10,000 per every three miles and covered all local townships.”

“When I became Commissioner we did a lot of finishing projects in subdivisions such as Centennial and Tarda Estates. Those popped up and were built on,” Cuyler said. “We always use specs which are provided by the Winnebago Highway Department.”

“The entire state of IL. Townships and municipalities in Winnebago County all have excellent boards,” Cuyler said. “I have also had the privilege to work with county boards, Senator Dave Syverson, former Representative Dave Winters, and Representative Joe Sosnowski. They have all been there for the township and have supported us through MFT, (Motor fuel tax) funds. When they were voting in the state for this Senator Syverson called me from the floor to let me know that we won.”

“Rockton Township was the only township to receive funds through an infrastructure funding program that President Obama had started called “First Shovel.”

In Cuyler’s time he has overseen plowing, road maintenance, and mowing in the township.” Our country roads look the best of many that I have seen,” Cuyler said. “Our guys walk every mile picking up trash. Every year Rockton Township seals every three miles of country roads, and sweeps the roads. We also blacktop in subdivisions but have to save up money to do sections needed every four or five years.

“I always buy all of the equipment such as trucks or tractors from the State of IL. on a state bid via Central Management Service.  This has saved thousands of dollars by buying this way.”

Cuyler oversaw the construction part of the Dorr Rd. bike path from its conception. “The path had nowhere to go north and south. I teamed up with others who helped make these plans come to life,” this was one of my biggest accomplishments,” Cuyler said. ”

When South Beloit High School was built the township donated to the school in support. “I was not going to let that school go in without turn lanes and lights. I contacted Mike Duffy who worked with me to make sure both were put in,” Cuyler said.

Cuyler is quick to give gratitude to others. “I have to thank Sharon Hecox. We didn’t always agree, but we always have done what was best for the township. She always wanted to make sure we had enough money for projects and that what I presented was my decision.

“My workers make me look good; if it wasn’t for them being there and executing what needs to be done I don’t know where I would be; they are the ones who keep me in office.”

“I am a steward of the township’s money. Whenever I spend even a dime I have to think of all of the people we are trying to help and to try to spread the wealth all around the township. I have been very fortunate to have had the people trust me to spend roads funds wisely. I have always saved money and built up for the proper time for a project to get done. We have to save the roads even if we are just doing a patching job to secure the area so when it is their turn to get it done we have the money.”

“I always had an open door policy; even if there is something you don’t like all were invited to come in to see me,” Cuyler said. “No matter what time someone called me I would always answer the phone, even if someone had the wrong township.” 

“In snow storms we would be out plowing the community center and clearing bike paths. “ Every winter I had someone call me to say, “You had my road plowed early in the morning, but I cannot get out of my subdivision. “ I had at least six or seven calls with complaints every winter, and three were for somebody else.”

“I love this community and the people in it,” Cuyler said. “People have been very nice to me. I’d like to thank the community for placing their trust in me for the past 40 years.  Sometimes at Christmastime residents would buy us lunch or try to give us money. This is the community we live in and they have given back in the past 40 years.”

“I have seen this community grow from 24 to 50 subdivisions including Truman Estates, Tall Oaks to Centennial. Over the years we have maintained the roads in all of these township subdivisions.”

Cuyler has been married to his wife Bridget for 35 years. The Cuylers have three children. “I must thank my wife and family. During our marriage we have only made it to her families for Christmas twice,” Cuyler said.  She knows what winters mean here. When our kids were younger sometimes their toys might not have been assembled. We also never had a New Year’s celebration. They put up with me not being home in the winter.”

Rockton Township has presented Cuyler with a small replica, metal truck and a gift card. Written on the truck are the words, “Matt Cuyler, 40 years.”

Cuyler’s final day will be May 14. The Township is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Trenton Keyhoe is running unopposed on the April 6 ballot and will serve as the new Rockton Township Road Commissioner.

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