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FHWA Works: Careers in Motion

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Welcome to the "FHWA Works: Careers in Motion Employee Spotlight" series, a look into the careers and lives of Federal Highway Administration employees. Each month, we will introduce you to one of nearly 3,000 FHWA colleagues and highlight the important work they do. Our employees come from all corners of the agency but all offer the same, yet unique sense of dedication and professionalism, all while keeping America's roads and bridges safe.

Check out whose career is in motion and how #FHWAWorks! Discover exactly why our agency is celebrating being ranked in the Top 10 percent of "Best Places to Work in Federal Government!"

To learn more about how FHWA Works, explore the video series on YouTube or FHWA's LinkedIn page.

FHWA Works: Employee Spotlight - Dan Mathis

Photo of Justin Ocel

Full Name: Dan Mathis
Title: Division Administrator
Division/Department: Washington Division
Location: Olympia, WA

  1. What is your current position and how long have you been in this role?
    I have been the Division Administrator (DA) for FHWA’s Washington Division for almost 17 years located in Olympia, WA. Why so long you might wonder? Well, it’s been an exciting and transformative time in transportation for Washington State. There have been three State revenue packages, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and two large transit revenue packages in the Seattle metro area in the time I’ve been here. These plus the regular Federal-aid program have led to some of the most unique and challenging projects one could experience in a career–building floating bridges, boring a highway tunnel under Seattle, providing wildlife over- and under-crossings along I-90 in the Cascades, and construction of light rail transit within interstate right-of-way. I think I have the best job in the agency (and I hope everyone feels that way)! Prior to my time in Washington, I was the Assistant Division Administrator (ADA) in the Illinois Division from 1996 to 2001. Other positions I’ve had include District Engineer in Iowa, Pavement Engineer in headquarters, Assistant and Area Engineer in the California Division, and highway engineer trainee in various locations.

  2. What is your typical workday like?
    There’s no typical workday so I’d like to lay out what a typical week entails. As a DA my workweek revolves around two key roles–FHWA Ambassador for Washington State and office staff supporter/enabler. Early in the week I begin by reviewing my calendar to see what’s upcoming, what I need to prepare for, and anticipate what needs to be done in the two key roles heeding one of Stephen Covey’s habits “Begin with the end in mind.” In conjunction with this, I review my calendar at the end of the day in preparation for the next. Engaging with partners and stakeholders is an important part of the Division Administrator’s job. Being aware of transportation issues and topics at the local, State, and national level through scanning various media sources and attending transportation conferences and forums is an important piece to the ambassador role, as is sharing of important and innovative efforts underway in Washington State with the agency. Informal discussions and meetings with Division office teams and individuals is a critical part in 1) providing information and overall direction, 2) helping employees deliver projects, and 3) helping employees grow in their positions (i.e., making decisions, considering the big picture, and getting stuff done).

  3. What has been your biggest accomplishment over the last year?
    Providing opportunities for employees to learn and grow. We had two employees serve on rotational assignments, one with an office in headquarters and one with FEMA in Puerto Rico. We also had one employee provide expertise and assistance on a critical programmatic effort to another Division and their State DOT through our partnership with the Resource Center.

  4. Prior to working at FHWA, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
    In the summers during my high school years, I worked as a janitorial assistant at the grade school I had attended. I did everything a janitor would do from stripping and sealing the classrooms’ wood floors, replacing broken window panes, painting, to crawling into a large boiler furnace to clean out the flues. It was hard manual labor, but I learned a lot about building maintenance, fixing and repairing equipment, and how to throw a mop with the best of them!

  5. What are your hobbies in your spare time?
    I like to run, bike, hike–just about any kind of physical activity. I’m a big believer in “your body is the most important asset you’ll ever have,” and keeping it fit and healthy is critical to a high quality of life and working toward personal and professional excellence.

  6. What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned in your career to get you where you are today?
    Well, there are actually three–take initiative, work well with others, and get stuff done! Leaders love employees who take initiative to solve problems and volunteer to do things. That gives leaders more time to work on other important things. Working well with others is really how we, in FHWA get most anything accomplished. We must be able to work with people in our office, with State DOT personnel, and with other agencies and organizations to do our jobs effectively. And, of course, we need to get stuff done! Getting stuff done was a challenge for me early on in my career. For me “the perfect” was the enemy of “the good” until I realized I had to get things completed to be able to move on to the next effort and to begin to affect change. A quote from John Ruskin that resonated with me and which I still have on my desk says, “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” That pretty much says it all for me.

  7. Who do you admire in the transportation field and why?
    There have been many I’ve admired throughout my career, but there are two that stand out. The first person is Ron Marshall who was the DA in the Illinois Division when I was the ADA there. Ron has a way with people and a tremendous sense of humor. He taught me how to take one’s job seriously, but not oneself too seriously; the importance of having fun in your work; and the significance of building relationships. Ron also showed how investing in our employees and giving them opportunities to grow benefitted them personally, as well as the office and the agency. Ron’s a terrific guy whom I still keep in touch with. The other person I admire greatly is Tom Smith (former West Virginia (WV) DA and current WVDOT Secretary). I’ve known Tom for most of my career and have always admired his folksy personality, his willingness to invest in the agency and its people, and the way he liked to challenge himself both physically and professionally. Like Ron, Tom has a way with people, a great sense of humor, and is a terrific story teller. He too, loves to have fun at work and help people–he was a frequent participant in agency strategic initiatives throughout his FHWA career, and deeply involved in various agency leadership development initiatives. Tom and I keep in touch and are always looking for something fun and challenging to do.

  8. Complete this sentence: "People would be surprised if they knew..."
    ...I’m a part-time thespian (well, sort of). For two months of the year I’m part of a musical production put on by teachers, administrators, and family members of the Olympia School District. Every January and February we get together to rehearse, build sets, and put on a musical production (this year it was “Hello Dolly”). I’d never done theater prior to moving to Olympia, but when I became aware of the opportunity to get into theater through my wife’s working as a librarian in the school district, we decided to jump in and give it a try. I got hooked and now I’ve done eight productions! In addition to being a growth and learning opportunity, what’s most rewarding about the effort is that proceeds from ticket sales go to the Olympia Education Foundation (OEF) which provides grants to schools and teachers for kid’s programs and classroom supplies. Last year we made $40,000 for OEF!

Other Employee Spotlights

Photo of Justin Ocel Full Name: Justin Ocel
Title: Civil Engineer
Division/Department: Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center - Office of Infrastructure RD&T
Location: McLean, VA
Photo of Dan Wolfe Full Name: Dan Wolfe
Title: Marketing Communication Specialist
Division/Department: Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
Location: McLean, VA
Photo of MaryAnn Carpenter Full Name: MaryAnn Carpenter
Title: Transportation Specialist/International Liaison
Division/Department: Federal Highway Administration
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Brenda Red Wing Full Name: Brenda Red Wing
Title: Senior Advisor for the Program Management Improvement Team Leader
Division/Department: Director of Field Services
Location: Lakewood, CO
Photo of Melinda Urban Full Name: Melinda Urban
Title: Senior Area Engineer
Division/Department: FHWA Colorado Division
Location: Lakewood, CO
Photo of Monica Jurado Full Name: Monica Jurado
Title: Pavements and Materials Engineer
Division/Department: FHWA Resource Center
Location: El Paso, TX
Photo of Al-Hasan Rashida Full Name: Al-Hasan Rashida
Title: Multimedia Specialist
Division/Department: Office of Management Services
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Neil Gaffney Full Name: Neil Gaffney
Title: Public Affairs Specialist
Division/Department: Office of Public Affairs
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Susie Tingler Full Name: Susie Tingler
Title: Management Assistant
Division/Department: Director of Field Services
Location: Baltimore, MD
Photo of Christopher Douwes Full Name: Christopher Douwes
Title: Community Planner; commonly known as the Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program Manager
Division/Department: Office of Human Environment
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Mohammed Yousuf Full Name: Mohammed Yousuf
Title: Program Manager, ATTRI/Transportation Research Specialist
Division/Department: FHWA Office of Operations R&D
Location: McLean, Virginia
Photo of Rebecca T. Crowe Full Name: Rebecca T. Crowe (Becky)
Title: Transportation Specialist
Division/Department: Office of Safety
Location: ADL- Virginia Division; Richmond, VA
Photo of Jihan Kamel Noizet Full Name: Jihan Kamel Noizet
Title: Transportation Specialist
Division/Department: Office of International Programs
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Todd Kohr Full Name: Todd Kohr
Title: Legislative Analysis Team Leader
Division/Department: Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Kirsten Poston Full Name: Kirsten Poston
Title: Disability Policy Analyst
Division/Department: Office of Civil Rights
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Agnes Vélez Full Name: Agnes R. Vélez
Title: Transportation Specialist
Division/Department: Office of International Programs
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Bruce Moody Full Name: Bruce Moody
Title: Program Management Analyst
Division/Department: Oregon and Washington Divisions
Location: Salem, OR
Photo of Joey Hartmann Full Name: Joey Hartmann
Title: Director of the Office of Bridges and Structures
Division/Department: Office of Infrastructure
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Marissa Romero Full Name: Marissa Romero
Title: Division Bridge Engineer
Division/Department: Arizona Division Office
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Photo of Doug Hecox Full Name: Doug Hecox
Title: Spokesman
Division/Department: Federal Highway Administration
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Tome White Full Name: Tom White
Title: Social Media Coordinator
Division/Department: Office of Public Affairs
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Ralph M. Davis Full Name: Ralph M. Davis
Title: Supervisory Transportation Specialist
Division/Department: Office of Government and Policy Affairs, Office of Highway Policy Information
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Doug Atkin Full Name: Doug Atkin
Title: Assistant Division Administrator Nebraska Division
Division/Department: Nebraska Division
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Photo of Norah Ocel Full Name: Norah M. Ocel, P.E.
Title: Transportation Operations Team Leader/Highway Safety Engineer
Division/Department: Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division
Location: Sterling, Virginia
Photo of LaToya Hines Full Name: LaToya Hines
Title: Staff Assistant to the FHWA Administrator
Division/Department: Office of the Administrator
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Travis Thomas Full Name: Travis Thomas
Title: Lead IT Specialist
Division/Department: Office of Information Technology Service/Office of Administration (HAD)
Location: Washington, DC
Photo of Brittany Broussard Full Name: Brittany Broussard
Title: Human Resources Specialist
Division/Department: FHWA/Office of Human Resources
Location: Washington, DC
Roger Ryder Full Name: Roger Ryder
Title: Senior Stewardship Advisor/Director of Operations
Division/Department: FHWA Pennsylvania Division
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Jennifer Nicks Full Name: Jennifer Nicks, PhD, PE
Title: Research Geotechnical Engineer
Division/Department: Office of Infrastructure Research & Development (R&D)
Location: Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center,
McLean, Virginia
Trinette D. Ballard Full Name: Trinette D. Ballard
Title: Marketing and Communications Specialist
Division/Department: FHWA Florida Division
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Jaun C. Garcia Full Name: Juan C. Garcia
Title: Multimedia Specialist
Division/Department: Management Services/Office of Administration (HAD)
Location: Washington, DC
Melissa Yu Full Name: Melissa Yu
Title: Marketing and Communications Specialist
Division/Department: Center for Accelerating Innovation
Location: Washington, DC
  U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Careers in Motion  
Page last modified on March 8, 2018.
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