Will Kempton's Magical Mystery Tour
Former Caltrans Director says goodbye to District 7 employees, promises he'll "always bleed orange."
On July 28, District 7 received a final visit from Will Kempton in his official capacity as Caltrans Director. Although he has generally been candid with employees throughout his tenure, on this day Kempton promised to be even more frank than usual as his days with the Department were literally numbered.
“I’ve been calling this my ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’” Kempton said. “I’ve been in San Bernardino and Orange County already today and tomorrow I’ll hit districts 4 and 5.” He said he also planned to make it to District 10 for the funeral of Maintenance worker Donald Lichliter, who was struck by a car and killed on the job. Kempton said it saddened him greatly that Caltrans had lost seven employees to job-related deaths during his time as director.
Kempton regrets the furloughs and the threats of reduced compensation. “Five percent you can live with; 10 percent, ouch; 15 percent, that’s really hard to live with,” he said. “I’ve asked a lot of you in my time. You’ve responded magnificently and this is not the way I would have wanted to reward you.”
Employees have done nothing less than “turn the image of the Department around,” he said, citing the 26-day resolution of the MacArthur Maze fire, improvements to the Bay Bridge that were accomplished over one three-day weekend and, of course, “the I-5 tunnel (rebuilt in 45 days after a fiery crash severely damaged it) is another very great accomplishment.”
Caltrans is a ‘can-do’ organization, he continued. “But we haven’t done a good job of selling our image. I hope we continue to work on that. I hope the impacts of the last few months haven’t soured you on doing your very best.” The director allowed, however, that “the public needs to understand that you can’t just take three productive days away and have things stay as usual.”
Chief Deputy Raja Mitwasi presented Kempton with a token of the district’s esteem – a framed orange shirt. “Will Kempton brought this Department to a new level,” Mitwasi said. Kempton responded that he would always treasure the shirt. “Orange is my favorite color. I will always bleed orange.”
The director concluded that it would be very difficult to say goodbye. “I’m going to miss you all,” he said. “You have been wonderful and it’s been my honor to serve as your director.”