As I begin in this position, let me start by saying it is a very humbling opportunity to take on the role of Acting Secretary of PennDOT. At its core, this agency and our work is focused on improving lives and connecting people. I share our team's commitment to developing 21st century transportation and infrastructure solutions to meet those important, ambitious goals. I am grateful for this opportunity from Governor Wolf to keep PennDOT's momentum moving forward and to build on all the accomplishments of former Secretary Leslie Richards and the team during the past five years.
As a young girl, I always had a knack for math, sciences and building things, so I found my way to the engineering school at the University of Michigan where I earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in civil engineering. My first job out of college was with an engineering firm in New Jersey where I was the first female bridge engineer on the staff and was responsible for conducting bridge inspections and analysis. I started working on PennDOT projects over 30 years ago when I moved to Pennsylvania. I began as a design engineer, then progressed to project management and business leadership positions.
I have walked the halls of PennDOT for many years, but it has truly been an amazing experience to join the agency. And now that I'm here, I am passionately pursuing workforce development and retention enhancements because it's critical that we attract and keep talented individuals. I will also continue the conversation that Leslie Richards started regarding diversity and inclusion at the department. We need to nurture a diverse organization and workforce through innovative thinking, job-specific training, and fostering an inclusive environment that encourages, supports, and celebrates our similarities and differences. It's so important that we have people with various backgrounds at the table to help tackle our most pressing transportation challenges.
Comprehensive teams and ideas are needed so we can ensure the safety and prosperity of future generations of Pennsylvanians – whether it's those living in rural, suburban or urban areas of the Commonwealth. There are so many ways that PennDOT affects the daily lives of those who live in and travel through Pennsylvania, and it's critical that we keep those everyday operational functions going: things like winter maintenance, driver and vehicle services, keeping important projects moving. connects us to our jobs, our families, our friends. I envision a transportation network that is truly multimodal, and that supports Pennsylvanians in all the many ways that they travel, whether it's on a bike or on foot, by car or plane, or on our mass transit systems.
We also know that there's incredible potential in
automation and new technologies, and I'm so proud of how PennDOT has been a leader in this area. It's important that we look at how transportation can support growth – not only in our metropolitan areas, but across the state.
But there's no way to talk about growth without facing the reality that there is a serious lack of investment in infrastructure, and that we are in desperate need of a sustainable source of infrastructure funding. This is a major focus of mine, and I am looking forward to working with our many partners and stakeholders on this issue. We have a solid backbone of infrastructure in Pennsylvania, but the only way that we can support it is by making an investment in transportation that will support jobs, freight movement, economic growth, and quality of life. We need to look into creative and innovative public/private funding partnerships and options.
These are just some of the many high-priority initiatives that need to be addressed, while also continuing to implement REAL ID, developing succession planning at all levels within the organization, and sustaining our achievements in
PennDOT Connects and enhanced maintenance operations.
I look forward to working with our team in the weeks and months ahead. I know that we have the talent, resources, and determination to make a difference for those who live and travel in Pennsylvania.