Chief Deputy Lindy Lee: A Passion for Work
Chief Deputy engages in a surprising array of projects and interests, often at the same time.
It’s 8:30 in the morning when we sit down to speak with District 7 Chief Deputy Lindy Lee and already the activity level in her office resembles the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but still).
To say she exceeds at multi-tasking would be an understatement. During our interview, Lee handled some emails, reviewed and approved various documents for a flight to Sacramento she was taking in a few hours, dealt with a deputy’s issue, responded to requests from Association Executive Project Coordinator Norma Dorsey, and chatted with a student intern.
Everybody, it seemed, wanted a piece of her before she left for Headquarters and then two weeks in Belize, where she planned to surreptitiously indulge her passion for windsurfing (surreptitiously because her traveling companions were tired of going to Aruba every vacation for that purpose and hoped to just relax).
Good luck with that, although Lee planned to leave her laptop at the office (but take her Blackberry, of course – there is, after all, only so little work a person can do).
The Deputy District Director’s primary duties are to oversee the day to day operations, particularly those related to capital matters, and to handle internal operations, said District 7 Director Mike Miles. “Lindy is a welcome addition to our executive team. She came in and didn’t hesitate to get to work on the tough jobs. The district is fortunate to have her,” he said.
Lee is a California girl and second-generation Caltrans, having followed her father into the Department in 1983 as a Right of Way agent in District 7. Tired of driving, she later moved to District 8, taking her father with her. Her career ultimately would take her to Districts 1, 2, 3, 7 and 11 in addition to Headquarters. “I’m really happy to be back here,” Lee said. “Also, I couldn’t have moved any further north without having to leave California.”
In addition to windsurfing, reading, walking, riding her three-wheel bike, Caltrans and her family (husband and two Airedales), she has several other vital interests, including food, which is why she obtained her first degree from California State University, Pomona (Cal Poly) in Hotel and Restaurant Management, followed by a reality check. “Then you realize when you get out of school that you can’t get a job in that field.”
That led to obtaining another Cal Poly degree, this one in Finance and Real Estate. Lee’s true love, however, is technology and she had started a graduate degree in Computer Science when Sacramento beckoned in 1995. The knowledge she had acquired was put to good use; Lee started the first LAN system for Right of Way, taught computer skills all over the state and put together some of the first Caltrans websites, she said. “We were on the bleeding edge – when you’re out there so far that no one understands what you’re doing.”
Although technology is still one of her “passions,” Lee has little time for it these days. Instead, she relies on her leadership skills developed over 21 years as a senior to help manage the complexities of the District 7 Chief Deputy position. “I’m very pleased with how well (District Director) Mike Miles and I are working with the deputies,” she said. “There’s real partnership here and I feel very accepted.”
One of the biggest changes she is adjusting to is the lack of a unit to manage. She said she misses that intimacy and camaraderie but is happy with the trade-off: “Now I have an entire building.”
As for goals, “Mike and I are determined to see the continued commitment to service that District 7 is known for,” she said. “We want to deliver for our partners.” To that end, Lee said her job is to make sure things are done before they need to be.
“The only comments we want to hear from the outside is how great we are.”