Ask A Deputy - KIMBERLY GAMBLE
This is the 5th in an occasional series in which Inside 7 gets the inside scoop on our various divisions.
Kimberly Gamble joined District 7 on June 1 as its Deputy District Director of External Affairs, which includes Media Relations, Public Affairs, Graphics, Equal Employment Opportunity and Governmental and Legislative Affairs. Gamble has been involved in implementing task management and strategic planning efforts for the Department and in the private sector. Prior to her position in District 7, she worked at Caltrans Sacramento Headquarters as a statewide liaison for the Division of Right of Way and Land Surveys. Gamble holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from California State University, Sacramento. She speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently.
Inside 7: Tell us about a little about yourself and how you learned to speak Mandarin.
KG: I’m an Air Force brat. My father is from Detroit; he met my mother while serving in Taiwan. My mother is from Tsingtao in the Province of Shandong, China. Mandarin was my first language, but I never learned to read or write it. As a child, I spoke Mandarin in order to obtain as much food and candy as possible from my parents and grandparents. I’ve grown into an international ‘foodie.’ I love regional foods, especially Taiwanese noodle houses and foods from Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the Madras region of India. Occasionally, I enjoy a McDonald’s burger. I’ve lived in several mid-western states, but my parents chose to settle in Sacramento following military duty. I was raised, literally, in my mother’s Chinese restaurant, which was one of the first in Carmichael (a Sacramento suburb). My entire family has first names beginning with ‘K.’ My sister’s name is Kim, so, I always go by Kimberly. Mom’s English was limited and Dad was away when she had to choose my name. The hospital nurses helped Mom with some choices, and she didn’t realize the similarities between the names Kim and Kimberly.
Inside 7: What were your first impressions of District 7?
KG: The sheer massiveness of it all was my first impression of District 7. The building, the quantity of people and the large amount of projects District 7 is responsible for delivering annually. Sacramento is the state’s capital, but Los Angeles offers so much more as far as transportation needs and services are concerned. Each Caltrans district has unique challenges and characteristics, and I’m excited about getting to work in one of the largest Caltrans districts. I’m impressed with the culture and food choices in downtown LA. Also, my daughter and I love Tiny Dots! She attends daily and it’s the main topic of our conversations.
Inside 7: With your background in marketing and strategic planning in both the public and private sectors, what kind of bold, significant changes could District 7 quickly implement to make an even better, stronger and more innovative department?
KG: I’m a big believer in archiving, succession planning, training, pro-activeness and forward-thinking. In External Affairs, we’re going to work on a better system to track and archive documents, graphics and general information for easier retrieval and sharing. We’ll refrain from being reactive and reinventing the wheel. The district is on the right track with its efforts to fill the lobby museum space with interesting transportation-related projects and concepts, and open our door to the public to see what we’re doing. To strengthen our public education efforts, we could invite more tours, groups and delegations to District 7 to share good news of our innovative work. For example, our Maintenance folks are constantly developing and employing the use of modern technologies and are real leaders in their field. We’re going to highlight our successes by applying for more transportation awards. Public Affairs and Graphics staff is on track to create a unique brand and logo for District 7 for our printed materials and website. In all marketing plans, the basics are messaging, packaging and branding. We’re going to better package Caltrans messages to highlight the district’s goal to “Deliver Sound Transportation Solutions.” All of these changes, I believe, will make Caltrans even better and stronger.
Inside 7: What would you plan for your division if you had all the resources you could want at your disposal?
KG: Training! With unlimited resources, I would schedule more specific kinds of cross-functional training, job-shadowing and job-sharing. This is important for succession planning. I’d like staff to participate in field reviews of major projects. It’s one thing to see a project’s horizontal design on paper and another to actually see it. We’d get a better feel of the location, why the work is needed, and the conflicts and challenges that design, construction, right of way, and utility engineers may encounter. We’d take more road trips with the area project managers and resident engineers to see firsthand the roadway conditions and how neighborhoods, residents and businesses may be impacted and what we can do to minimize potential impacts.
Inside 7: Why does External Affairs matter and how does it contribute to Caltrans’ mission and goals for safety, mobility, delivery, stewardship and service?
KG: External Affairs definitely is the ultimate resource for getting our good news to the general public, local agencies, elected officials and legislators. Accurate and timely information from Public Affairs and Media Relations staff helps to educate the public on the scope of our work, helps to gain public support for our transportation projects and garners public trust. Graphic Services staff helps tell the Caltrans story with photos, video, or well-designed materials, maps, and models. EEO supports the workforce with harassment preventive training, mediating personnel conflicts and promoting equality and diversity within Caltrans. This, in turn, enhances quality service throughout our workforce. The Legislative Affairs unit works with local and state elected officials to advance Caltrans’ goals through the legislative process. It also supports our Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program and provides customer service that helps to efficiently deliver quality products and services, enhancing our resources and assets.
Inside 7: What, if any, changes do you see coming down the pike for your division? Are you implementing any new goals or directions this year?
KG: On the first day I met with my staff collectively, I said that I’m open to hear only constructive criticism and suggestions. We’ll accentuate the positive and carve out time to incorporate some thoughtful and strategic planning. We’re going to brag about our successes and good stories that happen daily – but too often go unnoticed. For example, there are opportunities to submit nominations for the AASHTO Transportation Communication Awards and many other awards that highlight our good work. External Affairs has the multi-disciplinary talent to submit in several categories for public outreach, social media, websites, graphics, video, publications and special events. We are also available to assist other divisions in packaging their award submissions.
Inside 7: What are External Affairs’ top priorities at this time?
KG: Transportation issues elicit public interest, involvement, feedback and critique. It’s important to capture and hold the attention of our customers upon delivering Caltrans messages. Currently, a number of projects have incited passionate public participation and comments. It’s important that we stay positive and keep our commitment to Californians to improve regional and statewide mobility and to find innovative ways to move goods and people. It’s a priority that External Affairs provides excellent customer service internally and externally and delivers timely, transparent information and resources.
Inside 7: Besides a love of food, restaurants and noodles, what other hobbies or activities do you enjoy?
KG: Travel, of course, so that I can get my exotic foods straight from the source!