WASHTO'S new secretary should look familiar to ITD staffers

When Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness was named president of the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) in July, one of his first tasks was to select a WASHTO secretary to help him keep tabs on the 18-state regional organization.

He could have picked an engineer, a communication professional or anyone from inside or outside his staff. Typically, the WASHTO secretary comes from the state where the president resides.

He chose his current assistant, Carla Anderson. (Pictured below)

“The director asked me, ‘Do I want to continue doing what I do every day, or would I like to do something outside my normal tasks and outside the box?’” Anderson recalled. “He gave me the option. I did some thinking and, frankly, I could not pass up the opportunity.”

“I felt, first of all, it was an honor to be asked. And second, it’s an honor for him to be president,” she said. “What better way to represent Idaho than for me to be secretary?”

Her new duties involve coordinating organizational activities and require her to attend all the WASHTO meetings, which include the WASHTO conferences, and then the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) conferences during his presidency.

“I take minutes at those meetings, take care of any resolutions, and then turn around and send out the minutes,” she explained. “Any correspondence that comes from the director would come from me. I’m the director’s ‘boots on the ground.’”

She added that she would be setting up the Chief Executive Officers’ Spring Retreat, where all WASHTO CEOs will come to the state of Idaho in 2016. “They’ll talk issues, discuss what’s happening, where they want to go, and how they will make changes,” she said.

Promoting Idaho and transportation are important responsibilities that Ness and Anderson share in their new, added roles.

Anderson pointed to the field of safety as a big issue for WASHTO right now. “I think we have more of an opportunity to get out there and say how important safety is to our western states,” she said. “In fact, at the AASHTO conference, they said that safety data is not just for vehicles, it’s for pedestrians, transit and bicycles.”

She said that she believes the appointment of Ness as WASHTO president was an indication of growing respect for what Idaho has accomplished during his time as ITD director.

“It’s important, for Brian as a CEO, to be respected in his field, and to know that what he’s doing at this agency is thought highly of by others,” she said. “For example, the new WASHTO Emerging Leaders Program is his program.”

Anderson’s new duties come with a fair amount of necessary travel to regional and national meetings. “I’ve worked my career at ITD as an admin. I didn’t think I’d see an opportunity where I would get to travel,” she said. “So, for me, the surprise is, ‘Yes, you get to travel.’ As an admin, opportunities to travel are slim to none.”

She explained that this kind of exposure to regional- and national-level meetings is rare for an administrative assistant.

“Not only does it help me, but it helps the administrative support field, because I can bring back things I’ve learned,” she said.  “It’s kind of exciting.”

Her advice to others in the administrative support field is to take as many opportunities as possible for training, practicing customer service, pursuing learning opportunities, going to conferences and meeting new people.

“Think outside your box,” she advised. “See further than your window. You need to see things on the local level, the state level and the national level. Move outside your comfort zone, because you can do that. But, you’ve got to – you have to work for it.”

Anderson began her career with ITD 25 years ago where she started in Enterprise Technology Services as a receptionist/typist. After working several jobs in that unit, she moved to Human Resources where she worked as a technical records specialist, did new employee orientation, in-service awards and worked with new hires.

Later, a job in Right-of-Way as an administrative assistant was followed by a promotion to the Administrative Assistant 2 position in ITD’s Executive Offices and then to the position as the director’s assistant.

For 25 years, ITD has been fabulous for me. It has given me every opportunity, but I had to take them,” she said. “It’s not always about making the most money. It’s about being the biggest part of the agency you can be.”

Published 11-13-15