Connie was a familiar sight on Island Transit for several years as she commuted from South Whidbey to Coupeville, where she worked as Assistant County Engineer. Then she disappeared, but she didn’t go far and wasn’t gone long.
Connie worked for the City of Mukilteo for a year until, last December, when she was hired, again, by Island County as the new Public Works Director and County Engineer. Now she’s back among her fellow commuters on Island Transit, as well as some of her coworkers at the County.
Regular commuters tend to have their favorite seat and Connie’s is in the front. She hops on and is soon absorbed in her E-book. We asked her about the possibility of encountering her coworkers on the bus and getting drawn into work discussions before actually getting to work. She grinned and held up her E-reader which tends to ward off most conversations. Still, she’s happy to swap greetings as we pass.
As Public Works Director she oversees a staff of 120 people and manages a $40-million annual budget. She oversees parks, trails, roads, solid waste, surface water, emergency management and GIS mapping. She said her time on the bus helps her decompress. When she drives, she thinks about work all the way there and back, but on the bus, she can read and relax.
The buses and park and rides are not as crowded as they once were. Since the start of the pandemic, many Island County employees are working at least part of the time from home. She could too but knows there are people who want to see her throughout the day, so she comes in, and usually takes the bus. She says she appreciates the cost savings on fuel and car maintenance. She’s also concerned about climate change, so the bus makes sense, and cents.
While working for the City of Mukilteo, Connie took public transit to work. She hopped on Island Transit to get to the ferry and took Community Transit from there to her office on the mainland. Asked about a comparison, she said, “Island Transit is more approachable. Community Transit is more institutional.”
Connie has been the lead on several road and trail projects in Island County. I asked her what was in store for the years ahead. She closed her book and looked up, thinking. There’s a plan for a new multi-use path along Goldie Road in Oak Harbor, and another between Clinton and Ken’s Korner and a new roundabout at Main Street and Harbor Avenue in Freeland.
She’s been an advocate for traffic calming policies that will help make Island County roads more pedestrian and bike friendly.
It’s good to know we have a Public Works Director who understands what it’s like to travel by bus, bike or on foot. So welcome back Connie!