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 moving minnesota through employee communication
 February 13, 2002
No. 48 
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This week's top stories
Transportation conference proudly spotlights employees
Seeds workers receive scholarship to attend transportation conference
State offers resources for coping with change
Rochester appoints Paulson as district transportation engineer
Sapporo congress features winter road maintenance
Attentiveness, caring help save life of employee stricken with aneurysm
USA WEEKEND features letter home from wartime military duty by Mankato District’s Barna
Conference will explore issues linking transportation, state’s tribal governments
In the mailbag
 Transportation conference proudly spotlights employees

2 men holding Pride Awards

(l-r) Gary Beckmann, Mankato District, and Gary Ruud, Communications and Public Relations, display the Mn/DOT Pride Award they each received at the Transportation Conference Feb. 12. Twenty-one Mn/DOT employees and one FHWA employee were recipients of the award that recognizes outstanding qualities in transportation systems management, leadership and information. Photo by Jed Becher

Twenty-one Mn/DOT employees and one external partner spent a few moments in the spotlight Feb. 12 as winners of the 2002 Mn/DOT Pride Awards. Presentation of the awards capped the first day of the annual Transportation Conference in Bloomington.

Another 30 employees and two external partners received Pride nominations.

Now in its second year, the awards recognize employees and external partners in the areas of transportation systems management, leadership and information. Any Mn/DOT employee can nominate a co-worker or external partner for the award.

The 2002 Pride Award winners are:

  • Jeanne Aamodt, Central Office
  • Gary Andrist, Central Office
  • Rebecca Arndt, District 7 – Mankato
  • Bernie Arseneau, District 6 – Rochester
  • Gary Beckmann, District 7 – Mankato
  • Tami Bergemann, Central Office
  • Wendy Frederickson, District 1 – Virginia
  • Marcia Friedrichs, Metro
  • John "Jack" Gilb, District 8 – Willmar
  • Dan Gullickson, Central Office
  • Mike Larson, District 4 – Detroit Lakes
  • Jody Martinson, District 3 – Baxter
  • Rebecca Novak, District 7 – Mankato
  • Carol Olsen, Central Office
  • Gerald Rohrbach, Central Office
  • Jodi Ruehle, Commissioner’s Office
  • Gary Ruud, Central Office Jenny Seelen, District 3 – Baxter
  • Keith Shannon, Metro
  • Nelrae Succio, Central Office
  • Colleen VanWagner, Metro

Also receiving an award was Cheryl Martin, a Federal Highway Administration environmental engineer.

Man presenting Pride Award to woman

Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg presents a Pride Award to Colleen VanWagner, Metro Division, who was one of three winners in the category of transportation systems management. Photo by Jed Becher

Colleen VanWagner, Metro Division, was one of three winners in the category of transportation systems management. In nominating her, Patti Loken, Metro Division, wrote: "Colleen can write the book on possessing the ability to incorporate the customer in her work. As a State Aid project manager, she assists all the Metro cities, counties and consultants on delivering their local Federal Aid projects….She teaches and trains everyone she comes in contact with and is a role model to her coworkers and Mn/DOT functional groups on how to provide top-notch customer service and accountability to our local partners."

Donna Robbins, Mankato, nominated Gary Beckmann, Mankato receptionist, in the category of information. Robbins wrote: "Gary goes that extra mile to make every customer feel special and very important. He has the unique gift of remembering people’s voices, names, phone numbers, family members and special events in their lives. This quality allows Gary to make people feel special when he identifies them by name, asks about family or events that relate personally to them."

In the category of leadership, Gerry Rohrbach, Materials & Road Research director, was one of 12 winners. Joe Meade, Materials & Road Research, in his nomination noted how Rohrbach has "championed improving the performance of our Minnesota Highway Pavements."

Look for additional coverage of the 2002 Transportation Conference in next week’s Mn/DOT Newsline.


 Seeds workers receive scholarship to attend transportation conference

A new scholarship program, provided by the Commissioner’s Office, enabled four current and former Seeds workers to attend the 2002 Transportation Conference.

"This is a great chance for students to learn more about critical issues in transportation, as well as an opportunity to network with Mn/DOT employees and their partners," said Margo LaBau, Mn/DOT’s chief of staff.

"Seeds participants make an important contribution to Mn/DOT’s workforce. The scholarship is one way we can encourage their continued learning," she added.

Seeds began in 1994, and offers highly motivated minority and economically disadvantaged students the opportunity to gain work experience and the chance for permanent placement at Mn/DOT.

The four recipients of the Commissioner’s scholarship were selected based on their essay of how Seeds has influenced their career. Recipients of the scholarship are:

  • Rebecca Fabunmi, a civil engineering student, who joined the Seeds Program in 1994 as a student worker in the Office of Environmental Services. She was the first student interviewed for the program. By the time she graduated from the University of Minnesota she had job assignments in the Materials and Research Laboratory and the Office of Technical Support.

Now a permanent Mn/DOT employee, Fabunmi notes in her essay: "I was able to walk from being a student into the professional world with experience, confidence and an exceptional resume…I would not be working at MnDOT had I not chosen to join the Seeds Program."

  • Carla Martin, who is working on a degree at the Saint Paul Technical College while providing clerical support for the Office of Human Resources

  • Crystal Philips, who is working on a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Systems and is a Seeds worker in Business Operations

  • Luis Reyes, who works for Metro Design and has a degree in Architectural Drafting and Estimating Technology from the Dunwoody College of Technology

Reyes says in his essay: "I have learned a lot from my fellow employees whether it was about my job or dealing with bumps in the road while in school. The students in the Seeds program are an elite class of students. There are requirements you must follow while in the program and so if you have a Seeds student working for you, you have one of the better prospects working under you."

Currently, there are 44 students ranging from seniors in high school to students pursuing Masters degrees enrolled in the program. About 64 percent of Seeds participants work in Central and Metro Division offices, and 36 percent in the districts. Mn/DOT has hired approximately 70 students into permanent positions since the program started.

According to Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, "The number of employees eligible for retirement in the next three years is staggering. We will need to retain and attract as many skilled employees as possible. Seeds will help us do that."

For more information on Seeds, contact Emma Corrie, Seeds program manager, at 651/297-3897, or check out the Seeds Web site.


 State offers resources for coping with change

A state budget shortfall, a lagging national economy and international unrest have all contributed to recent changes at Mn/DOT that, in one way or another, have affected all of us.

In order to continue to move Minnesota during these turbulent times, Mn/DOT has initiated the Shaping Our Future effort to realign resources and create efficiencies. These efforts are affecting individual employees in some cases, and whole offices in others. Everyone reacts differently to such changes and has different needs in dealing with them.

"Change is not easy," said Rich Peterson, Human Resource assistant director. "But employees don’t have to handle the uncertainty of change alone. There are resources available that can help with the emotional side of change so we can continue to be productive at work and at home."

The Department of Employee Relations Employee Assistance Program offers advice and support for employees and leaders who may need help coping with change issues. Contact Mn/DOT’s Human Resources Office at 651/296-7207 for more information or call the DOER EAP office directly at 651/296-0765 or 1-800-657-3719. You can also link to this information on Mn/DOT’s "HR on the Web" site under "Hot Topics" at

In addition, EAP’s Web site ( provides tips for coping with change. Some of the articles on this Web site include:

  • Leadership considerations during budget cuts

  • Why is change so hard for some?

  • Taking stock of where we are

  • Coping with anger and loss

Employees may contact their supervisor or a Human Resource representative if they have questions about how Shaping Our Future will affect them. Visit the Mn/DOT Shaping Our Future Web site at http://ihub/shaping or send questions to Watch the Web site for answers to employees’ questions.


 Rochester appoints Paulson as district transportation engineer

Greg Paulson

Greg Paulson is the new transportation District 6 engineer in Rochester.

Greg Paulson was appointed as transportation district engineer at Rochester. He succeeds Nelrae Succio who was named as Mn/DOT’s district operations engineer in October.

Before accepting his new position, Paulson served as Rochester’s assistant district engineer for state aid, construction and materials.

In his new role, Paulson manages the district, which has an annual operating budget of $26 million to support its operations in 11 Minnesota counties. The district includes more than 1,400 miles of state highways, 837 bridges and 11 transit systems. Approximately 375 employees work in the district.

Before joining Mn/DOT in 1998, Paulson served as county engineer with Goodhue and Pine counties and as assistant county engineer with Waseca and Houston counties. He holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota.


 Sapporo congress features winter road maintenance

Panel of 4 people

Mn/DOT State Maintenance Engineer Mark Wikelius, second from the left, represented North America on this International Winter Road Maintenance Congress panel in Sapporo, Japan, two weeks ago. Wikelius answered questions about and showed a video highlighting Mn/DOT's winter road maintenance technology. Photo by Paul Keranen

Imagine dealing with this:

"The cold air blows from Siberia across the Japan Sea, where it picks up seawater and continues east until it encounters the mountains of Hokkaido, then it dumps it all as snow—on Sapporo, a densely packed northern city of almost two million people—in a plains area ringed by mountains and sea."

That, according to Mn/DOT State Maintenance Engineer Mark Wikelius, is the primary winter transportation problem faced by the city of Sapporo, Japan, which hosted the PIARC International Winter Road Maintenance Conference during the last week of January.

More than 2,200 people from transportation agencies and businesses in 59 countries attended the weeklong conference to share information about new techniques and technology for improving the safety and driving conditions of roads during winter weather. Their numbers included three from Mn/DOT: Wikelius; Pat Hughes, Design/Build; and Paul Keranen, Light Rail Hiawatha Project Office.

Mn/DOT’s cutting edge technology for winter road maintenance gained it a seat on an eight-member international panel of transportation experts. Wikelius sat in for Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, who’d originally planned to attend. The other transportation experts came from Japan, Finland, Lithuania, Hungary, the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China and South America.

"We (Mn/DOT) were the ‘representative’ from North America," Wikelius said.

Local events may have kept Tinklenberg at the Capitol that week, but technology allowed him to make an impact anyway—to rave reviews. Attendees paid close attention to a 10-foot-high television screen as Tinklenberg narrated an in-house video of techniques used by Mn/DOT maintenance to both prevent and clear snow and ice from roads and bridges.

"Several people told me that Mark’s was the best presentation on the panel," Keranen said, "both because he was clear and brief, and because of the video."

Heated sidewalk in Japan surrounded by snow

Snow is no match for the heated portion of this sidewalk in Sapporo, Japan, which also has heated roads. Their road maintenance crews use heated roads and other snow removal techniques because they have very little space in which they can plow or haul Sapporo's 15 feet-per-average-season snowfall. Photo by Paul Keranen

The Minnesota delegation also toured some of Sapporo’s winter road maintenance facilities.

"They have to remove 13 million cubic meters of snow every winter," Wikelius explained. "And they don’t just plow snow, they REMOVE snow. Their population’s so densely packed into the plain area next to the mountains that they literally have no place to put snow. Instead, they use heated roads and sidewalks to melt some of the snow, and drain it away into the rivers and the ocean. They also haul some snow to holding areas and snow-melting facilities."

Wikelius said that this wasn’t the only difference between Sapporo’s and Minnesota’s approach to winter road maintenance.

"They also have a huge task force—lots of people—hauling and melting snow," he said. "They have a huge population that needs employment. They have enough people out there to support the technology, whereas here we’d use technology to support a more limited workforce."

"I was very impressed with their advances in technology," Keranen added. "They use road surface condition monitoring sensors in many of their vehicles, and they’ve been using automated deicers in the rural areas for about 10 years now. Almost all of their plows were adjustable and extendible, with cutting edges that were much easier to remove."

Keranen said he looked at environmentally friendly technology as well.

"They don’t have a lot of the traditional power sources on Hokkaido," he said, "and they use a lot of windpower to power the snow-melting facilities."

Keranen is putting together both a slide presentation and report on some of the technology demonstrated at the conference. He will show the slide presentation next week to Hiawatha Project Office coworkers as a "brown bag lunch talk," and said he’d be willing to give presentations for other Mn/DOT offices as well. The report will go to the Federal Highway Administration, who sponsored his trip.


 Attentiveness, caring help save life of employee stricken with aneurysm

Man sitting at desk

Quick thinking by Dan Johnson (above), Information Systems supervisor at Brainerd, possibly helped save the life of Don Kieffer, information technology specialist, Maintenance, who suffered a brain aneurysm at a staff meeting Feb. 5. Kieffer's condition continues to improve, reports his supervisor, Bill Roen.

Quick thinking and attentiveness demonstrated by Dan Johnson, Information Systems supervisor at Brainerd, possibly helped save the life of Don Kieffer, information technology specialist 4, Maintenance, who suffered a brain aneurysm at a Program Delivery information technology staff meeting on Feb. 5 in a St. Cloud hotel.

Kieffer, who suffers from migraine attacks, felt ill before the meeting began and rested on a couch. Notified by hotel staff that a meeting participant was ill, Johnson helped Kieffer to his room. Johnson checked on Kieffer during the meeting, noting he was becoming more ill than typical with migraine onset.

Johnson then drove Kieffer to a nearby clinic. Clinic staff determined that he needed to be hospitalized and Kieffer was taken to the St. Cloud Hospital by ambulance. Doctors diagnosed his condition as a brain hemorrhage and recommended that he be transferred to the Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for treatment.

Johnson accompanied Kieffer to Abbott-Northwestern and helped facilitate initial meetings between medical staff there and Kieffer’s spouse, Marsha Kieffer. Bill Roen, Kieffer’s supervisor, notified Marsha Kieffer about her spouse’s condition.

In a memo to Brainerd District managers, Roen wrote, "Dan Johnson and Marsha Kieffer were strangers before last night, but I know it brought some comfort to her knowing that someone had cared enough to take the actions Dan Johnson did during the day."

Kieffer remains hospitalized at Abbott-Northwestern where his condition continues to improve. He is, however, not allowed to have visitors or calls, Roen notes. Roen said hospital staff expect Kieffer, depending on test results, to be discharged in about 10 days.

Well-wishers may sign a card for Kieffer at the Maintenance office on the second floor of the Central Office.

By Craig Wilkins


 USA WEEKEND features letter home from wartime military duty by Mankato District’s Barna

Man standing in fatigues in desert location

Tom Barna, the Mankato District business manager, is now on active duty with the Marines in the Middle East. His letter to his 12-year-old son was featured in the Feb. 10 issue of USA Weekend Magazine.

The Sunday, Feb. 10, issue USA Weekend Magazine included with the Minneapolis Star Tribune features a letter written to his 12-year-old son by Tom Barna, the Mankato District business manager now on active duty with the Marines in the Middle East.

Barna’s letter was included among six from others serving in the military to their families in the U.S. describing their feelings about being called to wartime duty.

Barna, who spent eight months in Persian Gulf with the Marines when Alex, was 2, was called to active duty in October. Barna and his spouse also have two teenaged daughters.

In his letter, Barna assures his son of his safety and stresses his desire to achieve a lasting world peace.

Barna also uses humor to address his being gone from his family.

"I’ve joked with your mom about not being sure which was worse—leaving her alone with three babies (during the Gulf War) or leaving her behind with three teenagers. I can still hear her laughing," he wrote.

Editors from USA Weekend and from the Army Times Publishing Co. which produces newspapers for members of the armed forces, chose the letters published in the article, "Exclusive: Letters from the Front."

Barna’s Marine Corps unit was included in a holiday salute to armed forces members overseas broadcast on NBC-TV’s "Jay Leno Show."

By Craig Wilkins


 Conference will explore issues linking transportation, state’s tribal governments

A Tribes & Transportation Summit will be held April 1-3 at the Grand Casino in Hinckley. Graphic design by Kim Lanahan-Lahti

Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, Mn/DOT and tribal governments will meet during the Tribes & Transportation Summit in April to explore ways to improve their working relationships and address specific issues.

Sponsored by the FHWA, Mn/DOT, the Red Lake Nation and other state tribes, the three-day conference will be held April 1-3 at the Grand Casino in Hinckley.

Issues to be addressed include trust land and its relationship to right of way acquisition, the area transportation planning process and the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance.

Cost for the conference is $75. For more information, contact Linda Aitken, Mn/DOT’s tribal liaison, by GroupWise or by calling 218/547-0060.


 In the mailbag

I want to compliment the services of the (Rum River) rest area on Hwy 169 between Onamia and Milaca.

I have stopped there on numerous occasions. Every time, the rest room has been spotlessly clean. The grounds are well kept, clean and welcoming.

On my last visit, Marion (Bemis) was cleaning. She was courteous and friendly. It truly is a pleasure to see our "tax dollars at work" with these particular people….

Fay Leyden, Blaine


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