In Memoriam: Jerry Baxter
[Click on photos to read captions.]
Former District 7 Director Jerry Baxter died in late July after a battle with lung cancer. Baxter was director from 1987 through 1994.
Baxter is probably best known for completing the Century Freeway (I-105) and his adept handling of the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake in 1994. He was presented with a Director’s Special Award for outstanding delivery of earthquake projects and received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration praising the district for its performance.
Baxter was a native of Hannibal, Missouri, and attended the University of Southern California. He spent most of his career in District 7, leaving in 1994 to work for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.
At Caltrans, Baxter took a special interest in freeway operations, and was particularly proud of the Transportation Management Center, which was located in the District 7 Headquarters building when he was director.
“He always used to say that we’re not building more freeways, so we have to improve operations,” said Rita Even, Baxter’s secretary during his directorship. “He used to enjoy giving visitors tours of the operations center. He was passionate about it.”
Those who worked with Baxter say he was a man who was dedicated to improving the transportation infrastructure and making District 7 the standard for how to build, operate and maintain a large freeway system. He was also a man who valued his employees.
“Jerry was tough but very fair, and he really cared about people,” said Deputy Director of Planning, Public Transportation and Local Assistance James McCarthy, who was Baxter’s executive assistant. “He had a gruff exterior but he was very down to earth.”
“Jerry was very supportive, a great boss” said Even. “He was always ready to go to bat for us. He’s going to be missed by a lot of people.”