LONG-TERM EMPLOYEES SHARE A PERSONAL PIECE OF CALTRANS HISTORY -- PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES
Four long-term employees kindly give personal glimpses into their lifetimes of dedicated Caltrans state service. Please see next month's edition of the Inside Seven employee newsletter for more stories on long-term employees!
More than anything, Caltrans is about people. They are the diverse and talented employees who understand the importance of excellent customer service, whether to internal or external customers. They work daily within the many disciplines of the department with people from other agencies of government, private industry, universities, citizens groups and each other, to ensure that all of the pieces of California’s transportation network operate together. The following long-term employees, who have given virtually a lifetime of Caltrans service, share their interesting and varied, and sometime similar experiences.
This is Part One of a two-part series on seven of Caltrans' District 7 long-term employees and retired annuitants. Here are the stories of four people who have given us personal glipses into their lifetime of dedicated State service to District 7.
DICK MURPHY -- 61 YEARS
After three years as an aircraft engineer during World War II, Dick Murphy brought his expertise to Caltrans on July 1, 1947. With a preference for field work, Murphy was assigned to work in Surveys as an Engineering Aide on the preliminary alignment of the Golden State Freeway (I-5) from Castaic to the Kern County, which includes what now is known as the “Grapevine.”
In his early years at Caltrans, Murphy said he and his Survey crew would hop into an old station wagon and drive north of Castaic, continuing to Pyramid Lake. “Back then Pyramid Lake was just a river,” said Murphy, “and there was no freeway – just The Old Road.” His team walked the distance from Castaic to the Kern County line over the many years it took to map out the alignment of what many call the “backbone” of the California state transportation system. Murphy worked in Surveys for the next four years.
In the early 1950’s, Orange County was also part of District 7, and Murphy worked on the Santa Ana Freeway portion of I-5 in Santa Ana and Long Beach; on the four-level interchange in downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Freeway (U.S.101) – part of those years in Surveys and partly in Construction. Also noteworthy during his four years in Construction, was his work on the famous Colorado Street Bridge on State Route 134 in Pasadena.
In 1955, Murphy transferred to Design where he served13 years while he continued his education and studied for a Civil Engineering license. He said that getting a good education and a professional license made a big difference in his career. “I really encourage young engineers to continue their education and get licensed to advance with promotions and employment opportunities that are available with the State of California,” said Murphy.
He transferred to Freeway Operations in 1968, where Murphy said he found his “calling.” For the next 14 years, Murphy was involved in early studies involving transportation management, congestion relief, ramp metering and automated transportation systems. Murphy is known by many in his field as the “father of the Los Angeles Regional Transportation Management Center,” (LARTMC) which was opened in October, 2007 – and he has received accolades and awards for his achievements.
Murphy received a Supervising Transportation Engineer classification in 1982, and was appointed Maintenance Chief through 1989, the year he retired. In 1984, he was asked to return to Operations to coordinate the Los Angeles Olympics traffic strategies. After his retirement, Murphy returned to Operations as a retired annuitant in Traffic Operations, where he remains today.
"Dick Murphy has spent his life dedicated to improving the California transportation system," said Frank Quon, Deputy District Director for Operations. "He is committed and driven to providing excellence in all of his endeavors. We are extremely fortunate to have him working as an annuitant, and we continue to learn from him today."
GERALD BARE -- 51 YEARS
Veteran employee Gerald Bare began his long Caltrans career in 1957 as a Junior Civil Engineer. Among his many duties was to work on the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5) in Fullerton when Orange County was a part of District 7.
Shortly thereafter, Bare was called to military service and temporarily left Caltrans for two years to serve in the United States Army where he taught soil mechanics at the engineering school at Fort Belvoir in Alexandria, Virginia.
Upon his return to Caltrans, Bare joined in Traffic Investigations for six years. Then, in 1965 having passed the Civil Engineering exam, he was promoted to an Associate Transportation Engineer working extensively on the Los Angeles Area Regional Transportation Study (LARTS).
Bare has spent the bulk of his career working in traffic modeling, to develop computer models that predict traffic and air quality for the entire Southern California area. “The Southern California Associated Governments took over the regional responsibility in 1978, however Caltrans still performs modeling on our individual projects,” Bare explained.
Among many career achievements, Bare worked as the Senior Engineer in charge of designing carpool lanes on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) from the Orange County line to the Century Freeway (I-105), and on several other major projects, such as the Simi Valley Freeway (SR-118) from the Ventura County line to I-405.
Bare was also the co-manager for analyzing traffic effects of the Northridge Earthquake and authored a report, “Traffic Handling for the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10)” to present to the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D. C. And in 1993 he wrote an article about congestion management and the benefits of ramp metering.
"Gerald has invaluable experience and a wealth of knowledge," said his supervisor Elhami Nasr. "He is extremely dedicated, extremely helpful and always willing to share his knowledge with others."
After a lifetime of dedicated state service, Bare officially retired in 1995. Immediately thereafter, he began working half-time as an annuitant. Like many other retirees, Bare agrees that over the years, computers have made a difference in engineering. “Computers have really increased productivity,” he said. Most recently he produced a report of traffic volumes for Los Angeles and Ventura Counties for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) Congestion Management Plan, spreading the good news about the benefits of ramp metering and how they allow freeways to work more efficiently.
DOTTIE HUFF -- 51 YEARS
In the May, 1961 issue of the Highway News Bulletin (the predecessor to Inside Seven), it was reported that Dorothy “Dottie” Huff had the distinction of being the only female engineering employee in the Caltrans Division of Construction working a field office. Hired in 1957 and assigned to her first field construction project, Huff was an Engineering Aide I in the Pacoima Construction office to work on the I-5/I-405 project.
With Dottie Huff leading the way, today there are thousands of women working in the Construction field to keep the California Highway System running smoothly.
Today, Huff has been happily retired for eight years and she continues to work in Construction as a retired annuitant – still serving as one of the state’s experts on construction estimates. Her central focus is the Field Office Procedures class. She stays in touch with key people in Headquarters on changes and updates, and modifies the class as needed. She teaches the class, when requested, throughout Southern California.
Her top-notch advise and assistance has been sought from all corners of the state throughout her stellar career and she is known for her in-depth knowledge, problem-solving capabilities, expertise and guidance.
Rob Effinger, Office Chief, Office of Construction Practices in Sacramento, said that one of the first training courses he ever attended when he started with Caltrans was given by Dottie Huff. "Dottie was knowledgeable, professional and passionate in her delivery in that course," he said. "She has given that course to thousands of others as well, setting the standard on construction contract administration and each time demonstrating how a professional engineer acts."
In 2000, when she retired, Peter Chan, Deputy District Director for Construction said, “We are very happy that Dottie will continue to contribute to Caltrans success as a retired annuitant.”
BOB VIDOR -- 48 YEARS
As a young man studying to become a lawyer, Bob Vidor worked for the Caltrans Los Angeles Legal office as a Student Legal Assistant in the late 1950’s. After successfully passing the BAR, Vidor was hired full-time at the Division of Contracts and Right of Way, as Junior Counsel (Attorney) located on Wilshire Boulevard and Normandie Avenue.
Vidor recalls that on his very first appellate case, he was scheduled to appear in a San Diego courtroom to deliver an oral argument. He arrived at what turned out to be an extremely old, gloomy courtroom, “like out of a movie,” he said. “It even had spittoons in the courtroom!” And even though he faced three appellate judges in arguing his first case, the court ruled in favor of the Department.
Over the next years, Vidor handled assignments involving eminent domain actions. In 1962 he was promoted to Assistant Counsel. After a short leave of absence, he returned and was appointed Deputy Attorney II and then Deputy Attorney III in 1966. His work centered on appeals, researching the law, preparing briefs (facts, procedures, arguments) and being an advisor and mentor to new attorneys and co-workers. He also handled a number of eminent domain trials and prepared appellate briefs on inverse condemnation and tort (liability) cases.
As time went on, Vidor was appointed Deputy Attorney IV in 1981 with increasing legal responsibilities. “One of my unique cases took place in San Bernardino,” he said. “State Highway 15 was going through some alleged old mining claims.” Caltrans contended the claims were invalid for lack of discovery of any valuable minerals. Vidor handled the proof of mining validity issues in a court trial and before a hearing officer of the United States Bureau of Land Management. The mining claims were ruled to be invalid under federal law. It was no pun intended when his supervisor, Deputy Attorney Linda Harrell, said, “Bob Vidor is a virtual gold mine of State Service. And he has seen so many changes over the years – both in law and here in the Department.”
Vidor was appointed Assistant Chief in April 1986. He supervised two teams of attorneys, principally in assignments of eminent domain cases, as well as conducting oversight of appeals. He has witnessed each physical relocation of the legal office over the years, from Wilshire Boulevard, to 107 South Broadway (now demolished), to 120 South Street, to Olympic Boulevard and Union Street, to 9th and Figueroa Boulevard and finally to the current District Office Building on Main Street. Due to the length and breadth of his experience, he said, “I have worked with each of the six Deputy Attorneys of the Legal Division whose pictures grace the hallways of the Legal offices.”
Vidor retired in December, 1996. It wasn’t long until he received a call asking him if he would like to return as a retired annuitant where he could use his expertise to assist in the Legal Office. Vidor was happy to accept, returning in September, 1997, and has worked half-time ever since.
“Bob Vidor has spent his entire life with us, starting out as a Legal Clerk and working nearly 50 years, and is still with us as an annuitant. He is our one-man appellate section and has numerous published opinions from the Courts of Appeal as well as the Supreme Court to his credit,” added Harrell.
Since working as an annuitant, Vidor has prepared and advised on drafts of seven briefs; as well as having worked on several civil writs (a document to seek relief from an appellate court from a prior trial court judgment.) “My career at Caltrans has been very rewarding – and working as an annuitant is very rewarding as well,” he said. “It helps Caltrans and it helps me too!”
Part Two of this two-part series will be published in next month's issue of the Inside Seven employee newsletter.