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  moving minnesota through employee communication September 11, 2002    No. 76  
  This week's top stories
 Sept. 11, 2001: "We will never forget"
 Governor proclaims week to honor state employees’ contributions
 Alert action by Brainerd’s Bray, Kempenich avoids possible drowning of three anglers in N.D. lake
 More than 60,000 State Fair visitors enter the ‘Mn/DOT Zone’
 Advocates for non-motorized travel converge on same path during St. Paul conference
 Maintenance Expo participants prepare soon for the inevitable—winter
 Treasure hunt will lead visitors to learn about roles of new C.O. Business Services Section
 Briefing packages keep political candidates abreast of transportation issues
 SMT seeks diversity award nominations for groups, individuals

 Sept. 11, 2001: "We will never forget"

Man, woman planting tree

To honor the memory of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, Gov. Jesse Ventura and First Lady Terry Ventura plant an elm tree on the grounds of the State Capitol. Photo by Mark Fischer

Beneath blue skies eerily reminiscent of that crisp September morning one year ago, church bells across the state rang today at 7:46 a.m., followed by a moment of silence, to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In St. Paul, an estimated 500 people gathered on the lawn of the State Capitol to pay their respects.

"This is a very sad day," Gov. Jesse Ventura told the crowd. "But it is a good day to be an American. It is a good day to be free….To the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, 'God be with you, and be assured, we will never forget.'"

Minnesota National Guard Adjutant Gen. Eugene Andreotti served as master of ceremonies for the event, which included the planting of an elm tree, the presentation of the flag by members of Minnesota’s National Guard, an F-16 flyover, a performance by the Minnesota National Guard Band, and the reading of a proclamation.

Copies of the proclamation, which declares Sept. 11, 2002 as "Minnesota Remembers Day," will be displayed next to the newly planted elm tree. The original proclamation will be donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Woman speaking outdoors

Michele Oelrich, MIS supervisor at Bemidji, led a Sept. 11 observance at the district headquarters that included poetry reading and a tree planting. Photo by Karen Bedeau

Mn/DOT remembers

Throughout the districts and Central Office, employees observed the one-year anniversary, both formally and informally.

Each district and the Central Office has a copy of a commemorative video that includes a speech by U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta about the effect of Sept. 11 on U.S. transportation and a segment from last year's "Minnesota Remembers" service at the Capitol. Copies of the video also are available from the Mn/DOT Library.

In Bemidji/District 2, Mn/DOT staff planted a tree in memory of the Sept. 11 victims, reports Karen Bedeau, district public affairs coordinator. Michele Oelrich, management information systems supervisor, gave the opening remarks and read poems, while other employees reflected on the day. AFSCME Local 637 and Local 438 purchased memorial T-shirts for their members, Bedeau said.

People saluting flag-raising

Employees at the Mankato/District 7 headquarters gathered to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and to honor the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Photo by Brian Bruckhoff

In District 6, separate remembrance events were held in the Rochester and Owatonna headquarter buildings, according to Brian Jergenson, district public affairs coordinator. In addition to viewing the commemorative video and gathering at the flag pole for a brief ceremony, employees were encouraged to wear red, white and blue.

Mankato/District 7 also had a flag ceremony and bell tolling at 7:46 a.m., with dozens of employees wearing the red, white and blue ribbons created by Deb Yates, engineering specialist, said Rebecca Arndt, district public affairs coordinator.

The governor asked all Minnesotans to drive with their headlights on in recognition of Minnesota’s first responders—the police, fire and emergency response personnel—who put their lives on the line to keep Minnesota safe.

For more information about the Sept. 11 commemorative events statewide and nationally, see the governor’s Web site and MSNBC coverage and MSNBC photos.

By Chris Joyce

Federal security alert level increases

The national Homeland Security Department raised the national threat level from yellow (elevated risk) to orange (high risk) on Tuesday, Sept. 10, based on intelligence of possible attacks on U.S. interests overseas.

The effects of this change on Mn/DOT operations were spelled out in a memo from Deputy Commissioner Doug Weiszhaar to key staff in the districts and Central Office. The information included action steps to comply with this level of threat such as increased bridge surveillance and securing building access points. This elevated threat level is in effect through Sept. 15.

"Safety continues to be one of Mn/DOT's priorities," said Weiszhaar. "As we respond to the elevated threat level, I ask that we keep the safety of our employees and our transportation network uppermost in our minds and actions."

Questions or concerns about Mn/DOT’s plans to respond to this elevated threat level can be referred to district or office management.

The Homeland Security Department has identified five levels of risk—green (lowest), blue, yellow, orange, red. The nation has been at the yellow level since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. To understand the differences in the various levels, go to the Homeland Security Web site.

By Lucy Kender




 Governor proclaims week to honor state employees’ contributions

Employee recognition poster

More information about Minnesota State Employment Recognition Week can be found on the Department of Employee Relations Web site.

Gov. Jesse Ventura proclaimed Sept.16-20, 2002, as the first Minnesota State Employment Recognition Week, and Wednesday, Sept.18, as State Employee Recognition Day. The Department of Employee Relations leads the campaign to help agencies recognize their employees during this week with the theme "Champions of Public Service."

At Mn/DOT, Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg and other senior managers will meet with employees to personally express thanks for their efforts to support the department and its mission.

"During this past year, and during the four years of my administration, I have been repeatedly impressed by the dedication, passion and commitment of Mn/DOT employees," Tinklenberg said.

"They have risen to the challenge of a budget shortfall, worked harder than ever to deliver the program faster and more efficiently, handled the stress and uncertainty following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and once again dealt with lack of legislative funding and the effect on our operations," he said. "Our employees are truly ‘champions of public service’ who have gone that extra mile to Move Minnesota."

Meetings with employees in the Central Office, the Metro Division and the districts begin the week of Sept. 16. A final schedule for the visits will be announced.


 Alert action by Brainerd’s Bray, Kempenich avoids possible drowning of three anglers in N.D. lake

Five men and fish

Members of the fishing party display the catch they made following the rescue of three anglers from a North Dakota lake by Tony Kempenich and Tim Bray. Party members are (from left) Denny Hanson, transportation specialist, Brainerd; Aaron Kempenich; Ken Davis; Kempenich, and kneeling in front, Bray. Photo courtesy of Tony Kempenich

Brainerd’s Tony Kempenich and Tim Bray set out in their boat during the Labor Day weekend in search of walleye and relaxation. Instead they became part of an unfolding drama in which they were instrumental in saving the lives of three other people.

Shortly after putting their boat into North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea on the morning of Sunday, Sept.1, the two anglers spotted a boat and what they thought was a fish marker. They initially gave the boat a respectful wide berth, then realized what they had thought was a marker was actually a person in the water wearing an orange life vest. Moving in closer they discovered two other people in the water sharing the same flotation device.

"We saw them bobbing in the water and thought it was a little early for swimming," Bray said.

All had fallen or jumped from the disabled boat the night before. One had jumped from the boat to try to swim the mile to shore to get help. Another entered the water to aid the first when he failed to make shore. The third went to the aid of the first two. None could overcome the wind and waves to make it back to their boat.

Kempenich, district materials engineer, and Bray, district soils engineer, went to their aid and pulled the three suffering from the early stages of hypothermia into their boat, gave them dry clothing and took them to shore, towing their disabled boat.

Kempenich and Bray ran the heater in their truck at full blast to warm the victims and then drove them to their vehicle about 10 miles away.

Kempenich said they didn’t learn the full names of the North Dakotans they rescued, but said they were "very thankful."

Kempenich said it was fortunate that he and Bray spotted the victims in the lake, a vast reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River about 30 miles east of Williston. The victims, he said, had seen other boats pass by but no one spotted them in the water.

Bray added that shortly after they rescued the three anglers a strong wind came up, creating waves that would have further endangered them.

"It could have been a very different story if they had been out there a few more hours," he said.

Kempenich, Bray and other members of their fishing party did eventually catch some fish.

"We had done our good deed for the day and thought the lake owed us more, but we only got a few," Kempenich said.

By Craig Wilkins


 More than 60,000 State Fair visitors enter the ‘Mn/DOT Zone’

2 women at booth

LuAnn Cameron, Brainerd, and Jan Decker, St. Cloud, welcome visitors to Mn/DOT’s booth at the Minnesota State Fair when Brainerd/District 3 employees staffed the exhibit. Photo by Cathy Clark

The Mn/DOT exhibit welcomed more than 60,000 visitors during the 12-day Minnesota State Fair. As in previous years, the most popular attraction was the big orange snowplow that gave kids and adults the opportunity to momentarily experience life as a snowplow driver.

"The kids, of course, love to sit in the plow and touch all the different gadgets, but it’s interesting to see the adults’ reaction to the plow. Many of them said they didn’t realize what they were up against when driving next to us. Having the plow at the fair really sends a safety message to drivers," said Mark Pribula, Metro Division bridge maintenance engineer and second-year fair volunteer.

Another attraction this year was Work Zone Safety Charlie Brown. Parents took pictures of their children wrapped around the oversized character before heading to the "Kids Zone" where young people could color transportation postcards and devise transportation poetry on a magnetic board.

"It was an excellent setup. Kids could color and play while their parents filled out the straw poll," said Mary Meinert, Communications and Public Relations, state fair coordinator. "We received more than 4,000 responses from booth visitors."

The straw poll asked visitors' opinions on an array of questions from ranking transportation plan priorities to choosing their favorite wildflower.

Another addition to the booth was the "Job Zone," one of Mn/DOT’s recruitment initiatives. It’s part of Mn/DOT’s response to the potential lost of 65 percent of its engineering and technical workforce by 2007 due to retirements and resignations.

"We had a lot of visitors stop by our booth inquiring about jobs. It was an excellent opportunity to reach a mass audience and answer questions regarding employment opportunities as well as familiarizing them with our new Web site," said Gary Simon, Human Resources, recruitment director.

The "Mn/DOT Zone" offered a wealth of information to the citizens of Minnesota allowing them to gain a better understanding of the agency and the services it provides. Booth visitors got the chance to ask questions, make comments and suggestions and interact with the men and women who work each day to keep Minnesota moving.

By Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo


 Advocates for non-motorized travel converge on same path during St. Paul conference

Back of yellow T-shirt

Last week, more than 500 biking and walking advocates met St. Paul for the national ProBike/ProWalk Conference, which Mn/DOT's Office of Transit helped plan. Photo by Sue Stein

More than 500 biking and walking advocates met St. Paul for the national ProBike/ProWalk Conference Sept.3 –Sept. 7. Participants—planners, engineers, police officers, professors, landscape architects, community health specialists and bike and pedestrians coordinators—journeyed from more than 40 states plus Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia to explore ways to incorporate biking and walking into the transportation mainstream.

"Transportation must and can be part of community, rather than a threat," said Bill Wilkinson, executive director of the National Center for Biking and Walking, the primary conference sponsor.

Mn/DOT's Bikeways and Pedestrians Section in the Office of Transit helped plan the conference.

During the opening session, Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg stressed Mn/DOT's emphasis on creating transportation choices and Minnesota's role as the nation's leader in number of miles of bike trails.

He also stated that every Mn/DOT transportation improvement project requires that bike and pedestrian concerns be considered.

Mayors Randy Kelly, St. Paul, and R. T. Rybak, Minneapolis, welcomed the group to the Twin Cities.

Kelly had proclaimed St. Paul the "City That Walks and Bikes" the previous week. He related that many St. Paulites have taken the "Safe Routes" pledge—to drive less each day, drive the speed limit or less and choose to walk and bike more often.

3 men at bike booth

Darryl Anderson, Mn/DOT’s state bike coordinator (at right), confers with fellow conference participants on developing long-distance bike trails. Photo by Sue Stein

Rybak advocated biking and walking everyday, not just as recreation on Saturday and Sunday. "Bikeways and walkways are designed to get somewhere," he said.

Mn/DOT staff presented at the conference. Mary Jackson, Mn/DOT research analyst, Transit, led a workshop on "Partnering Across Boundary Lines: The Twin Cities Metro Bicycle Strategies Group." Jackson addressed the challenges and importance of creating a bike network for the seven counties and 189 cities and townships in the Twin Cities metro area. The bike strategies group, begun in 2002, has 47 representatives from government agencies, and also bicycle advocates and citizen groups.

Carol Zoff, a landscape architect with Environmental Services, led a discussion about the Mississippi River Trail in workshop on developing long-distance trail systems. The Mississippi trail will stretch from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Currently, bicyclists are working with community groups and analyzing a route that she expects will be designated by June 2004.

Kristi Billiar, pedestrian coordinator, and Darryl Anderson, state bike coordinator, participated in an AASHTO sub-committee meeting on non-motorized transportation on Tuesday, Sept. 3, before the conference.

"It was a good experience to learn about what's working in other states and countries," said Bob Works, Sustainable Transportation Section director. "We can see how those ideas fit in Minnesota."

By Sue Stein


 Maintenance Expo participants prepare soon for the inevitable—winter

Man next to orange truck

Larry Gilbertson, a heavy equipment mechanic at Brainerd, shows the strap he devised to support de-icing chemical tanks on snowplows to prevent damage while they are being washed. Gilbertson’s inventiveness typifies the innovations that will be displayed at the Maintenance Expo. Photo by Jenny Seleen

As winter approaches, maintenance personnel from state, county, city, tribal and township governments will gather at the St. Cloud Public Works Facility on Oct. 2-3 at the fall Maintenance Expo to hone their skills and increase their knowledge to deal with the next snow and ice season.

The event consists of training using the latest winter maintenance equipment and technology, workshops about various maintenance areas, and a snowplow roadeo to test the driving and safety skills of plow operators.

In addition, the event includes vendors and agencies demonstrating their products and services.

The expo attracts more than 1,000 participants each day.

"The number of participants has increased each year," said Tom Tufenk, Office of Maintenance, expo coordinator. "We’re glad, because we want as many people as possible to receive valuable knowledge and training that will help them have a safe winter season."

Tufenk said visitors from Canada, Sweden, Finland and Norway have been known to attend the expos.

"Minnesota is known for its expertise in combating harsh winters, and many people want to learn from us," Tufenk stated.

The snowplow roadeo ranks high as one of the main attractions at the expo. This competition directs snowplow operators through an obstacle course to test their snow-clearing skills in various situations.

"This roadeo helps prepare them for the unexpected—whatever may come through their path," Tufenk adds. "It’s all about safety for the plow driver and the public—that’s what the entire expo is about."

To receive a brochure and registration form or more information about the expo, contact Tufenk, 651/296-2433.

By Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo


 Treasure hunt will lead visitors to learn about roles of new C.O. Business Services Section

Visitors who follow treasure hunt map clues during the Business Services Section open house on Sept. 18 will earn two rewards—ice cream and greater awareness of the new section’s location, role and services.

The open house begins at 12:30 p.m. in Rooms G-33 and G-28 and ends at 2:30 p.m.

Pam Tschida, section director, said the open house will lead visitors through the work area and enable them to meet staff members who provide services to offices in the Capitol area including the offices of Aeronautics and Motor Carrier Services.

The section was created, she said, to consolidate business services and to increase consistency and efficiency in providing them.

Services provided by the section staff include those related to payroll, purchasing, training administration, budget, employee benefits and some aspects of personnel administration.

More information about services the section provides may be seen on its Intranet Web site, http://ihub/BSS, after Sept. 18.

By Craig Wilkins


 Briefing packages keep political candidates abreast of transportation issues

Computer screen graphic

Employees can access information about department operations, a history of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, background on the reauthorization of the TEA-21 federal funding bill and other transportation funding facts on the Mn/DOT Web site.

Mn/DOT's Government Relations Office recently provided packets of transportation-related information to more than 500 legislative candidates.

Office director Tim Worke said that although the candidates are inundated with all kinds of information, transportation stands in the forefront of statewide issues this year.

Briefing materials, including updates on major transportation projects, were also sent to Minnesota’s congressional candidates.

"The purpose of the briefings is to assist candidates and their staff in understanding sometimes complex transportation issues as they meet with citizens, civic groups and local government officials," said Worke.

The volume of candidates is especially high this year due to the state's legislative and congressional redistricting based on the 2000 Census.

"Every seat is open and U. S. Sen. Paul Wellstone has completed his six-year term. In fact, the only politician not running for office is Senator Mark Dayton who is only two years into his term," he said.

In addition to department operations, briefing materials include a history of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, background on the reauthorization of the TEA-21 federal funding bill and other transportation funding facts. Employees can access the materials on the Mn/DOT Web site at: http://www.dot.state.mn.us/information/candidate2002.html.

By Jeanne Aamodt


 SMT seeks diversity award nominations for groups, individuals

Close-up of highway

Information about the department's diversity efforts is available on Mn/DOT's Web site. Photo courtesy of the Diversity Web page

The Senior Management Team seeks Diversity Award nominations to be presented at the December 2002 Commissioner’s Forum.

SMT first began this recognition to acknowledge employees who have contributed to promoting diversity in Mn/DOT’ s workforce.

"The diversity awards are a part of the department’s Diversity Strategic Plan which allow us to identify and honor those who not only support diversity, but take actions to incorporate diversity throughout the department," said Linda Bjornberg, Management Operations Group director and SMT Diversity Committee chair.

The committee bases its selection on program initiatives, accomplishments and contributions made within a year of the nomination period. The categories in which employees can be nominated are:

  • General Atmosphere, Group Award—Offices, districts, sections or units nominated for this category have developed a model workplace that weaves diversity into the fabric of daily activities.

  • Individual Effort, Individual Award—An individual nominated in this category has by his/her specific performance set a model for individual behavior.

  • Single Event Team, Group or Individual Award—Nominees for this category have invented, designed and/or delivered a project, program, training session, cultural event or communication tool that meets one or more of the objectives outlined in this category.

  • Special Program or Initiative, Individual or Team Effort—Nominations will be accepted for individuals or offices, districts, sections or units. Nominees for this category have made great strides in improving the statistical performance of their office, district, section or unit. This category differs from others in that quantitative data will be reviewed as a basis for the recognition.

Offices, districts and employees are encouraged to make a nomination in one of the above categories. All nominations must be made on the formal nomination form and later submitted to Bjornberg.

Approved nominations are considered final entries and must contain supporting materials such as accomplishments and contributions.

All nominations must be submitted by Sept. 27 to be considered for selection.

To make a nomination, please visit the diversity Web site, ihub/diversity, and click on diversity awards nomination packet.

By Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo