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PennDOT Employee Spreads Happiness in 25-Year Career

January 03, 2024 11:00 AM
By: Cassidy Snyder

​As motorists drive into Pennsylvania, they are greeted by large, blue signs that read "Welcome to Pennsylvania. Pursue your happiness." Beyond these welcome signs, PennDOT operates 14 Welcome Centers that are dispersed around Pennsylvania's borders. Each Welcome Center is staffed with Tourist Information Counselors who assist motorists with travel information, hotel reservations, sightseeing recommendations, and more. Whether motorists are passing through or looking to make Pennsylvania their destination, these Welcome Centers play a key role in connecting travelers to information and resources. 

Mary Jean Pepple has worked as the Tourist Information Supervisor at the I-70 West Welcome Center in Fulton County for nearly 25 years and will soon be retiring at the age of 85, making her the oldest person to retire from PennDOT. In a recent interview, Pepple explained how important tourism is for Pennsylvania.

"The first impression that someone has of you is what they remember you by," said Pepple. "The best thing in life is helping someone and knowing they are completely taken care of. We want people to come back and see us."

Pepple explained that she and the Welcome Center staff do whatever they can to assist the motorists and make sure they have an enjoyable experience while visiting. This includes reserving hotel rooms for travelers, helping with directions, and even entertaining children as their parents look through brochures or talk about their travel plans. 

Pepple takes pride in her work and in Pennsylvania. Often visitors are looking for attractions to break up their days of travel. The Welcome Center staff enjoys recommending highlights of Pennsylvania, including the Railroaders Memorial Museum, where visitors can learn about Pennsylvania's extensive railroad history; the town of Benezette, home of the Pennsylvania elk; and much more.

To provide a more personal touch for travelers, Pepple plants vegetables around the building for overnight guests to use as part of their dinner. In addition to vegetables, Pepple also plants sunflowers and allows visitors to take home the sunflower heads to grow in their home state. When asked what she will miss the most after retiring, Pepple said the people.

"I just love meeting new people. It brings me so much happiness to hear about their lives and their travels," Pepple said.

One thing that has remained constant for Pepple and the Welcome Center staff – and which is appreciated by the PennDOT team – is their commitment to happiness – spreading joy, friendliness, and exceptional customer service to Pennsylvania residents and visitors alike. 

Editor's Note: Mary Jean retired on January 5, 2024.  We thank her for her service, and hope there is a lot of fun and relaxation in her future. 

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