Essential Texans: Suzanne Johnson, ITS Operations Technician IV, TxDOT
To the average citizen, TxDOT equals roadways. In 1917, the earliest iteration of TxDOT was born, the Texas Highway Department. The agency started out building and maintaining Texas roadways, as well as licensing drivers and registering automobiles. Over time, the role and responsibilities of the agency evolved, but their mission remains the same; connecting Texans to what matters most.
Suzanne Johnson's title at TxDOT is a mouthful; Intelligent Transportation Systems Operations Technician IV.
Suzanne plays an integral role in connecting Texas on the road in the greater Houston area. She and her team of 15 dedicated state employees work every day to ensure the safety of all those on the roadways. Daily tasks include monitoring the roadways and alerting the public to any hazards that could impede their safety. She oversees dispatching of maintenance and signal crews to ensure that issues are handled promptly and safely. When a roadway accident does occur, she and her team coordinate with both motorist assistance programs and towing groups to handle the incident as quickly and safely as possible.
Her journey to TxDOT began with a love of customer service. At her core, she truly enjoys helping people. That desire to be of service led her to a degree in hotel and restaurant management. She later found that, while she loved to help people, she preferred a more behind-the-scenes approach. She found herself returning to TxDOT over and over; first as a summer hire, then as a temp, and finally as a full-time employee. The work was stable, the benefits were great, and there were daily opportunities to truly help the people of Texas.
Over her many years at TxDOT, Suzanne has seen and heard many misconceptions about state workers and she’s ready to set the record straight. The idea that the state workforce is a sort of nameless, faceless entity that rests on its laurels and has little regard for the public is simply not true. As Suzanne proudly states, “You don’t go into government work to get rich, you go because you care about people.” She sees those on her team and at her agency that work tirelessly to ensure that the public gets to and from their destination as quickly and safely as possible. “We’re not frontline first responders, but we care just as much.”
Though she and her team deal with daily events and crises on the roads, the general public rarely hears about the situations they handle. There are occasions when Suzanne and her team are in the public eye, and she is always proud of how they put safety first for all involved. In September of 2019, a group of Greenpeace activists chose the Fred Hartman bridge in Baytown to stage a protest. Using bungie cords, they suspended themselves from the bridge with supplies to sustain them for an extended period of time. Suzanne and her team were part of a coordinated effort between TxDOT, the local police, DPS, and county administration to ensure not only the safety of those on the bridge and surrounding roadways, but those on the water below, and the protesters. That spirit of cooperation and a safety-first mentality is part of what drives her love of her work.
Managing traffic in a large and populated area can be especially trying when a catastrophic weather event strikes. During Hurricane Harvey, Suzanne was at the office for a full week; not only was the workload tremendous, but her route home was cut off due to the storm. She and her team were tasked with keeping the public updated on road conditions as well as dispatching teams to disaster areas for cleanup and restoration of service. Keeping those teams safe in such dangerous situations was absolutely imperative, and time was of the essence. With no fanfare and few thanks, Suzanne and her team put their heads together and worked non-stop to see roadways restored.
The general public doesn’t often think about who/what it takes to keep our roadways running. Thanks to people like Suzanne Johnson, it’s not something we have to think about. Her service to the safety of the citizens of Texas makes her an Essential Texan and a true credit to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Thank you Suzanne for being an Essential Texan.
**Do you know any Essential Texans? Email us to nominate them for our next feature.