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2019 Award Recipients

Member of the Year: Nikki Farrington, SEH

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Nikki’s first leadership role in WTS MN was in 2012 as the Scholarship and Recognition Director.

In 2017, Nikki was eager to join the WTS Central Region Council, knowing that WTS MN was in the running to host the next regional conference. Her time on the council has help strengthen the relationship between the local chapter and the region, by organizing a regional retreat and facilitating regional calls with chapter directors to help share knologe and expand resourses at the chapter level.
 
In 2018, Nikki spent countless hours organizing the 2018 WTS Central Region Conference and was the first Central Region Conference to offer a dual track program, technical tours, and conference app. Nikki helped balance the needs and wants of the local chapter and the regional council, making the conference have a regional draw, but also highlighting what Minnesota has to offer the region. The conference was a huge success, it had 118 attendees, brought in over $20,000 in corporate sponsorship funds (not including in kind donations) and was able to generate funds to help kick off the next region conference.
 
In the years in between serving on the board and joining the regional council Nikki stayed active within the WTS MN chapter. She led a middle management program and was on the holiday party committee alongside attending programs on a regular basis.

 
Employer of the Year: Washington County Public Works

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Washington County Public Works is committed to supporting and advancing woman in the workplace. It’s imbedded in the words and actions of Public Works leadership and the culture of the organization as a whole.  In the last five years, female transportation professionals have been added to the Public Works department faster than any other demographic. This includes four transportation planners and two engineers, all WTS members and leading some of the most important public infrastructure investments on the eastside.  These woman have been met by an organization that is committed to their professional development and advancement. Collectively, these women have attended the local, regional and national conferences of more than a dozen organizations; they are active in six professional associations; and they have pursued certificates of study, professional development, workshops, and project management and leadership training, all funded by Washington County Public Works and amounting to tens of thousands of investment in female human capital in the transportation field.

Washington County Public Works support for and involvement in WTS is unmatched by other local governments in Minnesota. Washington County Public Works currently has seven employees who are WTS members; Public Works pays for their memberships. Over the past seven years, Public Works has had staff represented either on the WTS Minnesota board or on a committee, with currently four employees being active in leadership rolls.

Washington County’s commitment to advancing women in the transportation field should be upheld and modeled by other organizations. In honoring Washington County with the WTS Employer of the Year Award you are recognizing the importance of this commitment and calling upon other organizations to continue and expand their support for woman in the transportation field. This is critical to the development of the transportation field and the future of the Twin Cities regional transportation system.
 
Rose Parks Diversity Leadership Award: MnDOT, Small Business Opportunity Pilot Program 

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The MnDOT ADA Small Business Opportunity Pilot Program was launched in 2018 to develop capacity of local small businesses (especially Targeted Group Businesses, Veterans and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) to perform ADA construction and inspection work in accordance with MnDOT specifications. This pilot program has built the capacity of TGBs, Vets, and DBEs to perform this type of work, awarded contracts to women and minority owned businesses that had not previously participated in these types of contracts, and advanced MnDOT accessibility projects to remove barriers to transportation for people with disabilities.

Innovative Transportation Solutions Award: Nichole Morris, University of Minnesota HumanFIRST Laboratory

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Nichole is the principal investigator for a research project that involves improving the yielding rate of drivers when a person is crossing the street.. The purpose of the project is to increase pedestrian safety in St Paul through a multi-faceted campaign involving education, enforcement, and engineering countermeasures in a targeted and comprehensive manner. There are so many people involved that it would be impossible to count the number of women. Nichole’s leadership and strong communication skills have been instrumental throughout all of the initiatives.

Nichole and her team developed a several-page long instruction manual and training of how her researchers should cross the street and record data safely. Some of the crossing locations she does herself because they just feel so unsafe and she doesn’t want to put others in harm’s way. She helped develop an education and awareness campaign where she developed education materials to put in kids backpacks to spread awareness, relentlessly contacted media to get the word out, and worked through agency concerns to install weekly updateable signs along St Paul roadways that communicate the yielding percentage of motor vehicles to pedestrians.

During the project, the overall yielding rates have improved at the recorded sites from an average of under 30% to 70%. This is an enormous improvement for the safety of people crossing the street. This project has many players, but Nichole’s leadership has been an important and integral part of these increases. The project can serve as a model for other pedestrian safety initiatives across the nation.

Honorable Ray LaHood Award: Steve Wilson, SRF

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In his 30+ years in the transportation field, Steve Wilson has built a national reputation in the transportation field as a travel demand modeler, working to expand our understanding of future transportation needs through improved understanding of human behavior and better technological approaches to processing the complex array of data that provides insight into where, when and how we want to travel.  Steve has worked in both the private and public sector, and has earned the respect of numerous clients, colleagues and professional peers. 

However, Steve has been more than a leading expert in his field.  Throughout his career, Steve has freely and generously shared his knowledge and expertise with anyone wanting to gain an understanding of this complex field – colleagues, agency staff, entry-level transportation planners and students investigating transportation careers.  He has a firmly established reputation around making this complicated data easily understandable and being able to “tell the story” behind the numbers, allowing project team members, decision makers and the public to make sound decisions with the best interests of the community in mind. He has trained a number of talented professionals in the art and science of travel demand modeling, with the only criteria being the drive and interest in doing quality work - without regard to gender, race, ethnicity.  

Woman of the year: Lisa Weik, Commissioner Washington County

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Commissioner Lisa Weik is an exceptionally talented leader and representative for Washington County.  In addition to her strong leadership, she has been an advocate for the advancement of all staff, but especially for women in transportation.

Lisa Weik was elected as a County Commissioner in 2008.  Prior to a career in politics, she served as a Sr. Compliance Specialist in Regulatory Affairs for Medtronic Inc.  She worked for multiple Fortune 100 companies such as:

  • Medtronic Neuromodulation & Cardiac Surgery Divisions
  • Guidant Cardiac Rhythm Management Division
  • Smith Kline Beecham (Lufkin Medical Labs)

It was in the medical device industry that Lisa developed her keen insight and a passion for detail.  These skills allow her to quickly assess a situation and develop insight into the issue at hand, and see a path forward.  She has been able to utilize these skills in her role as County Commissioner. 

Soon after she took office, Lisa quickly established herself as an advocate for transportation.  The then I-94 Corridor (now known as, Gold Line Bus Rapid Transit) was in its early idea stages.  Lisa, having a strong desire to improve transportation options in Washington County, was a natural fit to the team.  She quickly became the “go to” elected official in the development of this corridor, and is recognized to this day, a decade later, as the leader of the Gold Line BRT.  Her knowledge, leadership and institutional memory is so profound that her colleagues refer to her as the “Weik-A-Pedia” of the board. 

Her advocacy and leadership doesn’t begin and end with Gold Line.  As with any influential person, Lisa is often tapped to serve in other important leadership positions.

County Board Chair

Lisa has served as the Chair of the Washington County Board on two occasions, in 2013 and again in 2017.   

As a leader, Lisa takes an active role in mentoring staff at the County as well as nationally.  Lisa is an active member of the National Association of Counties (NACO).  She is a member of the Women of NACo Leadership Network, which has a mission of “To enhance the effectiveness of female county officials and engage women officials in seeking leadership positions in their communities and within NACo.” And a vision of “WON seeks to be an organization that offers female county officials the best possible opportunity to further their participation in NACo and to assist women in their efforts to be effective leaders in all arenas of the political process.”

Lisa is also an advocate for younger staff, especially female staff in less formal ways.  Due to her high profile with the Gold Line BRT project, she has led groups of staff and policy makers to other regions of the country to research Bus Rapid Transit projects and their impact on local communities.  During these travels, she will often use the opportunity to mentor and teach younger staff.  Whether it be discussing ways to be effective as part of the legislative process, or giving staff an opportunity to network with her while on the trip, Lisa never misses an opportunity to grow and teach others. 

2019 Honorary Members: 

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Left to right:

Mary Morse Marti, Move Minneapolis

Jessica Wheeler, Sun Country Airlines

Jennifer Birkmeier, Blaine High School

Bri Whitcraft, Dero

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