With a new executive director, chancellor, chairman and commissioner sharing the same stage, change was the dominant feature of the 85th Annual Transportation Short Course’s opening session. Short Course was held at the Brazos County Expo Complex Oct. 11-12.
Hosted by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT’s) yearly gathering began with a 10-minute video that discussed the agency’s new modernization effort, which includes a different leadership approach, organizational structure and work process.
“We are in the seed-planting process of our modernization effort,” TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton told the crowd. “This shift in thinking will be a new approach in all of our business aspects.” Barton urged employees to be patient, saying “this agency will be better than it is today and [one] that we will all be proud of.”
Phil Wilson, former Texas secretary of state, officially became executive director for TxDOT Oct. 17. “It’s incumbent upon us to tell the story of the great work being done and the challenges before us,” he said, noting that he will enact some changes within the agency and will have an open-door policy that encourages new ideas from employees.
“Short Course is always a highlight of TTI’s year and a visible example of the continuing partnership between TxDOT and the universities,” TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen said, pointing out that the TTI/TxDOT partnership began over 60 years ago. “[It] remains a model the rest of the country tries to emulate.”
In one of his first appearances as the new chancellor for The Texas A&M University System, John Sharp applauded both TTI and TxDOT for the work they do. “It is my pleasure to be with the two finest state agencies in Texas and the country,” he said, continuing Christiansen’s theme by pointing to TxDOT and TTI as model organizations. “No two agencies in this nation have saved more lives or produced more economic development.”
Sharp credited TTI and TxDOT for helping to save his life years ago after a car he was riding in hit a roadside safety device called a sand-filled attenuator. “Speaking as someone who is here because of the work of these two agencies — thank you.”