PENNDOT'S District Engineer For Northwest
Pennsylvania Announces His Retirement
John L. Baker, P.E., District Engineer for PENNDOT District
1 for the past 14 years, recently retired from his position
in Oil City, Pennsylvania.
Baker, 57, nationally recognized for his achievements, managed
a district that consists of 4,000 miles of state highway in
Crawford, Erie, Forest, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties.
Baker started at PENNDOT in 1964 as a construction inspector
on the new Interstate 80 project. He received his Professional
Engineer license in 1974. In the early 1970's, Baker was named
as one of the first Community Relations Coordinators in the
state. He became the Crawford County Maintenance Manager in
1981 and held that position until he was promoted to Assistant
District Engineer for Maintenance in 1983, where he served until
1987. In September 1987, he was named Acting District Engineer
and was appointed to the District Engineer position early in
Baker has seen many changes at PENNDOT in his more than 37
years of service. One key change has been the increased focus
on customer relations and public involvement in transportation
projects. His philosophy of soliciting input from the people
who ultimately pay the bills, i.e. the public has helped to
make District 1 one of the most customer-oriented districts
in the state.
The district's public consensus building on Erie County's East
Side Access Connector is considered a worldwide model. Through
focus groups, Community Advisory Committees and public meetings,
the District kept the project on track and built a community
consensus on how it was to be built. Delegations of transportation
officials from Japan and Russia visited District 1 to study
"Our employees are a key factor in our successes,"
Baker said. "Without their dedication to service and willingness
to focus on quality, PENNDOT would not have been able to come
as far as it has. District 1 and PENNDOT statewide have the
customer service satisfaction numbers to back this up. PENNDOT
has received valuable customer feedback that has translated
into better customer service for the citizens of the Commonwealth."
Baker believes a strong focus on the "Maintenance First"
philosophy pushed by Gov. Tom Ridge has enabled PENNDOT to maintain
smooth and safe roads and to raise the level of the transportation
system throughout the district.
Baker holds the maintenance workers in high esteem and considers
them to be most vital to PENNDOT's positive image. He believes
that basic maintenance is key to a smooth and viable transportation
"PENNDOT can design and build the best highways and bridges,
but they must be properly maintained to keep the system functioning
at high levels," Baker said.
In 2000, Baker received the highest honor given to a transportation
official, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials (AASHTO) Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award. This
award is given to the transportation professional who most displays
career achievement. Baker's concentration on maintenance, stewardship
of the environment, leadership and customer focus were all stated
as justification for this coveted national award. In 2001, he
was the recipient of a legislative citation sponsored by the
Northwest Delegation. He is a member and past president of the
American Society of Highway Engineers, Franklin Section.
Baker's on-going labor relations commitment has built a labor/management
relationship that is second to none throughout the state. He
attributes this success to listening and working together and
building relationships. This two-way communication and trust
building process has assisted District 1 in many of the state-of-the-art
and cutting edge programs that have been piloted there.
Baker was a leader in PENNDOT's drive to embrace business quality
techniques, such as the Malcolm Baldrige criteria. These high
quality standards, named for the U.S. Commerce Secretary under
President Ronald Reagan, help companies and government agencies
develop strong customer focus, leadership, planning, and process
control factors and a strong results orientation. In 2000, District
1 received the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce Performance Excellence
Award, which recognizes organizations for achieving the Baldrige
District 1 has been the pilot for many fine programs over the
years. One of the stellar programs is Agility. Under the program,
municipalities and PENNDOT enter into agreements to perform
work for one another on a quid pro quo basis. This program has
not only saved the taxpayers of Pennsylvania at least $7 million,
but it has fostered relationships with municipalities throughout
the Commonwealth. To date every county in Pennsylvania has Agility
agreements in place.
Baker had a strong commitment to environmental and quality
of life issues throughout his tenure as District Engineer. Recently,
he participated in scuba diving excursions with the United States
Fish and Wildlife Agency during the threatened and endangered
species study for the Kennerdell Bridge project. Under Baker's
direction, a group of environmentally conscious employees formed
the District 1 PENNDOT Green Team. This group has participated
in education and public awareness of sound environmental management
at Earth Day functions and forged partnerships with local school
districts to beautify PENNDOT facilities. The group was also
instrumental in recycling and waste reduction projects.
Baker also promoted a recycled pavement process in which pavement
millings are mixed with oil and applied on lower traffic count
roads throughout the district. Mercer County leads the state
in miles of recycled pavement.
Baker is an avid turkey hunter and golfer and plans to pursue
these interests during his retirement. He resides in Oil City
with his wife Susan and three children, Jon, Jessica and Justin.
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