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Engineer Hiep Buu, Escaped from Vietnam;
Retires from Caltrans after 15 Years

After 60 years of service as an engineer to Caltrans and an impressive array of other entities, Hiep Buu retired Nov. 17, 2006, as the Federal Resources Area Engineer for districts 5, 6, 9 and 10. He is 80 years old.

He earlier worked for some 30 years in Saigon, South Vietnam. He was Chief of Public Works of many provinces in that country.

From 1967 to 1975, he served as Director of Public Works for the city of Saigon and was named Technical Assistant to the city’s Mayor. Among his 5,000-member staff was Be Nguyen, his “right-hand man,” who currently works in Structures Design, Sacramento Headquarters.

John Wells
The Director congratulates Hiep Buu on retirement.

From 1971 to 1973, Buu also worked with the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), helping to rebuild Saigon streets that had been damaged as a result of heavy military traffic. He received a certificate of appreciation in 1973 from American Brig. Gen. Wilfrid K.G. Smith, commander of the MACV for restoration of Saigon City Streets.

Buu came to United States 31 years ago at the age of 49 after the Communist takeover of South Vietnam. He and his family were on board the last plane out of Vietnam before the airport was closed. Although he applied for work with Caltrans, the department was laying off 3,000 engineers at the time, and Buu found work with Sacramento County.

His first job was as at the county’s Materials Testing Lab as an Engineering Technician. Since he did not have a U.S.-recognized engineering license, he attended California State University, Sacramento, and earned his Civil Engineering Professional Engineering License in 1978.

During his 17 years with Sacramento County, Buu taught novice county engineers, wrote booklets on hydraulics and eventually worked as the project manager of many drainage projects in Sacramento County.

In 1992, he joined Caltrans and worked 14.6 years in the Federal Resources Office in Sacramento Headquarters. “I have really enjoyed working with Caltrans. I leave Caltrans with many good memories and one more time, I thank all of you very, very much,” Buu wrote in his retirement address to bosses and co-workers.

“I contributed my humble part, a small part, to restore and reconstruct many highways and bridges” he said of his long career in Vietnam and in the United States.

Buu has five sons. Two of them, Dan Nguyen (HQ) and Tony Nguyen (D-11), work at Caltrans. Buu was married to the late Dong Doan. During retirement, Buu hopes to travel in the United States (by Amtrak passenger train), and visit Vietnam.

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