PennDOT - Leslie S. Richards

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Company: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Entry Submitted By: Jacobson Strategic Communications
Company Description: Established in 1970, PennDOT oversees programs and policies affecting highways, urban and rural public transit, airports, railroads, ports and waterways. About 10,000 of PennDOT’s 12,000 employees are engaged in the maintenance, restoration and expansion of the state highway system. They work from the headquarters in Harrisburg and 11 engineering districts, with facilities in all 67 counties.
Nomination Category: Individual Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Female Executive of the Year – Government or Non-Profit –More Than 2,500 Employees

Nomination Title: Leslie S. Richards, Secretary of Transportation

Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated executive since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously confirmed Leslie S. Richards as the first female Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) since the organization was created in 1970. With an annual budget of more than $9 billion and 11,900 employees, PennDOT is one of the largest transportation agencies in the United States. Under the Secretary’s leadership, PennDOT maintains 40,000 miles of roadway and 25,400 bridges, registers 11.9 million vehicles and licenses 8.9 million drivers.

Alongside Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Secretary Richards has made innovation and customer service a focus, creating new enhanced driver license and photo license centers that improve customer wait times by an average of 30 minutes. In addition, PennDOT will co-locate 16 new photo centers with other businesses, such as AAA, saving the department an estimated $600,000 annually in rent. PennDOT also installed AVL (Automatic Vehicle Locators) on its snow plow fleet of over 2400 trucks, and created a web site for customers to see where the trucks are in their area. AVL will help to manage salt usage on a constant basis so that the correct amount of salt is used in the appropriate conditions.

Safety is always a priority for Secretary Richards, and in order to make it easier and safer to travel on Pennsylvania’s roads, she and Governor Wolf unveiled PennDOT’s partnership with Waze, a real-time crowdsourced navigation app through which drivers share road conditions. In addition to sharing data with Waze, PennDOT is the first Waze partner in the United States to install beacons in a tunnel so Waze users do not lose their connection while driving through it.

Since her appointment, Secretary Richards has overseen projects like IdeaLink 20/20, a program for PennDOT employees to share innovative ideas that took off under her direction. Whereas the previous online suggestion system was underutilized, the new system under her leadership has over 40 percent of employee-submitted ideas on efficiency, safety, customer service, and morale in the process of being implemented. The Office of Administration has used this as a model for other state agencies, and other states are looking to emulate the program.

In addition, Secretary Richards has overseen the update of the 12-year program where she instituted a first-ever metric driven investment approach for structurally deficient bridges and roadway reconstruction in each District. While dealing with growing pressures on the Motor License Fund she was successful in achieving her goal of a cap in the FY16-17 Budget for State Police expenses and a path toward a permanent $500 million cap. She has undertaken several new initiatives, including County Transformation of Maintenance, to bring best practices across all 67 counties. She has spearheaded a new PennDOT 20-20 strategic direction, which brings a novel approach to project development, known as PennDOT Connects; it will transform the capital and maintenance project development process and ensure that community collaboration is a critical feature in the development of local projects such as bicycle facilities, pedestrian accommodations, and environmentally friendly infrastructure.

Secretary Richards envisions a PennDOT with continued improved efficiencies to meet financial challenges, a diversified workforce that offers employees fulfilling career opportunities, and a broadened planning process that considers input from all stakeholders.

Provide a brief biography of the nominated executive (up to 125 words):

Leslie S. Richards is the Secretary of Transportation for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Prior to this, Secretary Richards managed transportation projects in the private and public sectors.

In the private sector, she served as a senior project manager at a woman-owned civil engineering firm, and a public involvement specialist at a consulting firm. In the public sector, she served as the vice chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, where, under her guidance, the county restructured its road and bridge division, yielding increased efficiencies and $1 million in savings.

Secretary Richards is a graduate of Brown University, with concentrations in economics and urban studies. She received a master’s of regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a lifelong Pennsylvania resident.