Inside Seven
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Administration Deputy Duncan McIntosh and Graphic Designer III Monica Murillo created a mosiac portrait of Doug Failing made up of hundreds of photos taken over the years.

District 7 Says Goodbye to a Local Hero
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 11/2009

Doug's 29 years with Caltrans leave a lasting legacy of excellence.

A number of people, from representatives of elected officials to rank and file employees, paid tribute to departing District Director Doug Failing at a farewell luncheon on October 29.

As Master of Ceremonies, District 7 Chief Deputy Raja Mitwasi had an opportunity to share some of his thoughts about Failing and his experiences working with him. “Under Doug’s leadership, District 7 placed first among Caltrans in project delivery five years in a row,” he said. “He has overseen the construction of hundreds of freeway projects, including HOV lanes on virtually every major route in the District.

In everything he does, his goal is to motivate others. He’s very fair, and always waits to hear the other side before coming to conclusions. He’s trustworthy. People respect Doug because they know he respects them.

He truly appreciates the Caltrans workforce. This is the kind of guy he is: When I asked him what he wanted to do for his farewell party, he said, ‘Nothing formal and expensive; I’d like to spend this lunch with my staff.’ By that, I know he meant ‘my family.’”

Mitwasi then welcomed to the podium those who had certificates to present. Billy Greer, chief of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Los Angeles office, read from the governor’s signed resolution. “You have done a fantastic job!” it stated. “You have been a great asset to my administration.”

Veronica Zendejas, with Senator Jenny Oropeza’s office, presented a certificate from several local elected officials and praised Failing’s “openness,” adding that she had “harassed, chased and nagged Doug at many public events” and he was unfailingly accessible.

Following presentations from other agencies, in which Failing’s character and achievements were highlighted, various members of Caltrans management and staff spoke. Representing Caltrans Director Randy Iwasaki, new Chief Deputy Cindy McKim thanked Failing for his 29 years of service to the Department. “District 7 is a jewel in Caltrans’ crown,” she said. “Doug Failing has become one of Caltrans’ icons.”

A running joke throughout the presentations was that Failing never said no to an appearance; instead, he would say, “I’d love to, but I don’t think Mrs. Failing will allow it.” When Failing and Mitwasi’s assistant, Mario de Jesus, spoke, he thanked Yueh-Shen Failing for bringing her husband to the luncheon.

In what were perhaps the most touching remarks, Administrative Assistant Robbie Miles spoke about a rough time some years back when one of her children passed away. After she and her husband had spent a long day grieving, there was a knock on her door. Doug and Yueh-Shen Failing had come all the way to her neighborhood from way across town, on a Saturday, to console her and deliver a pot roast (made by the district director himself). “He could have sent a card or delegated the visit to a manager, but he sought me out,” Miles said. “That’s a true measure of his compassion and kindness.”

After a brief and humorous “roast” by Project Manager Steve Novotny and Programming and Contract Management Chief Alberto Angelini, Failing delivered his remarks. “I’ve had the best 29 years you can imagine,” he said. “It’s just been one great thing after another.”

In all the district’s accomplishments, even when an idea might have come from him, “You’re the ones that got it done,” he told the employees. “You are second to no one in this district, state or country.”

Failing spoke about the importance of partnerships with other agencies, which has “strengthened us enormously.” He also emphasized the value of Caltrans’ relationships with small businesses, calling them “the life blood of this economy. (“And don’t worry, big businesses, we like you too,” he added).

“I have been pleased and honored to have worked with each one of you,” he concluded.

Chief Deputy Raja Mitwasi is the Master of Ceremonies at the event. 'Under Doug's leadership,District 7 placed first among Caltrans in project delivery five years in a row.' Doug and Yueh-shen Failing prepare to cut the farewell cake, donated by Begin's Cafeteria. Failing addresses his 'family.' Beautiful floral decorations at each table were provided by the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG). Caltrans Chief Deputy Cindy McKim and Failing share a moment. McKim told luncheon guests that she had been instructed by Caltrans Director Randy Iwasaki that it was important to point whenever a picture was about to be taken.