Gratitude is certainly among my primary emotions as I look back on my first year as director of the California’s Department of Transportation. It has been quite the ride, so to speak, as together we have traveled great distances and done much meaningful work. Let us take a step back and acknowledge the past year's highlights, many of which are listed in the 2022 Caltrans Annual Accomplishments Report, released this summer.
In June, the Governor's Office honored 11 Caltrans employees with the Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor, the highest honors California bestows on its public servants. The awards are given to state employees for acts of heroism that go beyond the normal call of duty and at great personal risk to protect state property or save lives.
It's the eve of the new year of 2023. People are already popping champagne, making resolutions and ready to ring in the new year ahead of them. What better way to celebrate the new year than with mountains of snow and flash floods across the state of California. Not an ideal way to put the old year behind us and the new year ahead of us. That was only the beginning. Little did we know, winter was coming, and that it was going to be a long and excruciating three months of storms from January through March.
Fifty years ago this summer, the State of California established a new Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to unify a wide range of transportation functions under a single entity. Since July 1973, the department has managed one of the most complex transportation systems in the nation and helped play a vital role in creating the world’s fourth largest economy.
This story from the Caltrans Office of Civil Rights spotlights Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Marvella Steel Placers, and its CEO, Jacqueline Pruitt. Now a successful small business owner, Pruitt was in and out of jail for years until age 23. One week before being arrested the final time in 2003, the now 20-year sober addict said she had reached her breaking point and prayed to God to ask Him to remove her from the life she was living. God answered.
Work is well underway on Clean California projects on underpasses of U.S. Highway 101 in Salinas. The two artists who designed the murals, MJ Lindo-Lawyer and Joshua Lawyer of Rough Edge Collective, recently contacted District 5 Senior Landscape Architect Corby Kilmer to express gratitude for the opportunity. See what they wrote.
The “pursuit of happiness” is one of the longstanding inalienable rights we enjoy in this country, as espoused by the Declaration of Independence. For hundreds of years, Americans have sought to improve their situations and move forward in as many life realms as possible. However, insisting on attaining happiness can come with risks. If you’re yearning for happiness, it automatically signifies that you’re not happy right now.
Nina Dinsdale has been appointed as the Division of Business Operations’ assistant division chief for the newly formed Business, Office, and Security Services Branch, which encompasses the functional areas of Business Services, Sacramento Building Operations Center and Statewide Security Team. Nina has been a valued member of the Caltrans leadership team since December 2020.
Tarianna Perez has joined Public Affairs as the Headquarters’ media CPRA (California Public Records Act) coordinator. Her responsibilities include statewide oversight on CPRA requests from the media, as well as being an integral part of ensuring consistent messaging. Prior to state service, she was with Sacramento State for over three years as a communications coordinator.
Gloria Roberts has been appointed to be the new District 7 director. She had been serving as acting director. Since joining Caltrans in 2007, Gloria has served in a variety of roles in District 12, District 7 and Headquarters, including business services manager, chief of Public Information & Governmental Affairs, deputy district director of Administration, acting EEO program manager, acting division chief of Safety and Management Services, and chief deputy district director.
Arnold met the love of his life, JoAnn, while working for Caltrans in Clearlake. They married in 1958 and settled in Ukiah in 1968 to raise their four children: Daniel, James, Kathryn and Kenneth. Arnold was a surveying engineer by trade and was a part of the Caltrans team that built U.S. Highway 101 from the Oregon border to Santa Rosa. He worked in Construction and was a part of the building up of Northern California.
Medha began her career at Caltrans in 1991 as a delineator in Engineering Services and advanced her position as a senior delineator in 1993. In 2001, she became the supervisor of Drafting Services in the Office of Engineering Services, Geotechnical Unit. In 2003, she moved to the Division of Administration and supervised the Audiovisual, Graphics, and Reprographics branch. She enjoyed her leadership role and was an advocate for her staff.
Cliff graduated from Lincoln High School (Stockton) in 1963. He went on to college at the University of Pacific, where he earned a degree in civil engineering. He served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam War and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal. He started working at Caltrans in 1984 and retired in December 2009 after over 25 years of service.
Senior Bridge Engineer Ryan Bret Stiltz, who was born on Jan. 17, 1972 in Fairfield, died on July 7 in Sacramento at the age of 51. "Ryan was an amazing colleague, teacher and friend," fellow Senior Bridge Engineer Jason Chou wrote in an email to their colleagues on July 10. "I know everyone loved Ryan because of his down-to-earth personality. He had a great head on his shoulders. I know everyone who crossed paths with Ryan thought highly of him."
Fifty years since its creation in July 1973, Caltrans is celebrating it Golden Anniversary in several ways this summer. On July 12, several employees gathered in the Director's Office to mark the milestone. “As we congratulate ourselves for what we’ve achieved, it’s important to remember that Caltrans is not the same department it was 50 years ago because new organizations, like young engineers, can mature and adapt," said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. "A half-century ago, our department – understandably – reflected the car-centric economy and culture of the times. We worked very hard – and succeeded – in the monumental task of knitting together our Golden State in an unprecedented network of broad highways and soaring freeways. Caltrans has evolved and continues to do so – with a promise of putting people first in everything we do.”
Welcome to the latest installment of CT News' "video game," players of which are ideally amused and engaged, and winners of which have zero chance of being awarded with any meaningful prizes. The game play is simple. CT News presents links to three narration-free videos, all under 40 seconds. They were shot recently alongside (or over) California roadways that are maintained by Caltrans. Email your guesses of roadway and location to CT News by Sept. 30.
It can blow one's mind to think about how all our state's roadways were created, especially our rural highways. Motoring down State Route 3 on a late-July weekday, CT News chronicled the straights, turns, curves, ups and downs of a highway that boasts outstanding scenery almost its entire 130-mile path. Faraway vistas, scenic small towns, majestic mountains cut by charming creeks and rivers, other beautiful bodies of waters and the potential for many wildlife sightings. State Route 3 is one of the North State's gems.