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Employee Spotlight: Andy Stahr, District 3 Roadside Management Specialist

IDOT Blog – Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Andy Stahr joined IDOT in 2020 as a roadside management specialist after working nearly two decades in the private sector. He works in District 3, which serves Dekalb, Kendall, LaSalle, Bureau, Grundy, Livingston, Kankakee, Iroquois and Ford counties.

Here are some of his thoughts about his job and life outside of IDOT.

Tell me about your current job?

I am responsible for managing all the off-road, or “roadside,” conditions throughout District 3. This typically includes working with the district maintenance yards and deploying our Landscape Section highway maintainers in the management of roadside vegetation as well as man­agement of the rest area facilities and grounds. District 3 has approxi­mately 12,000 acres of vegetation to manage and is responsible for eight interstate rest area buildings.

Vegetation management tasks in­clude overseeing the implementation of IDOT’s mowing policy, the district’s herbicide spraying program, and the installation of new turf, pollinator plantings or landscape plantings. As part of the district’s herbicide spraying program, I organize and conduct sprayer training and manage the district’s licensure testing schedule. I also plan, purchase and distribute the chemicals needed to implement the program.

Working alongside the bureaus of Planning and Design and Con­struction, I assist in planning, imple­menting and overseeing contracted projects dealing with vegetation management as well, such as large-scale tree removal, landscaping or herbicide spraying contracts. Rest area facility management tasks in­clude overseeing the janitorial vendor contract, working with contractors on major building repairs or upgrades, and deploying Landscape Section highway maintainers to conduct reg­ular maintenance or minor repairs to the rest area buildings and grounds.

What’s the most important impact of your work?

An argument could be made that the most important impact of the work I do, in the big picture anyway, is the creation, enhancement and preservation of pollinator and prai­rie habitats along IDOT rights of way. However, the most important and direct impact of my work to the traveling public is more likely keeping the rest areas open and functioning properly.

Doing so provides a safe space for travelers to stop and rest. These facilities also provide shelter to travelers in times of severe weather. The buildings have provided a safe place for drivers during tornado-like conditions. We’ve also heard from truck drivers that the rest areas have literally saved their lives by providing a warm place to shelter when their truck broke down in the dead of win­ter and nobody can get to them due to bad road conditions.

Favorite part of the job?

Every day is different! I almost never do the same thing two days in a row, and I love that. If I had to choose, I would say that I most enjoy the vegetation management part of the job – landscaping with native plants and installing or managing pollinator and prairie areas.

Anything to highlight?

Since I started in this position, I have been focused on making the Landscape Team Section more organized and efficient. Traditional maintenance yards do their work in a single county. Some larger counties are even split between two mainte­nance yards.

Special crews like the Landscape Team Section travel the entire nine-county district to complete our work. One day we may be work­ing on a pollinator area in western Bureau County, while the next we may be repairing a toilet 180 miles in the opposite direction in southeast Ford County. Our round-trip travel times can be four or five hours depending on our work location for the day, so for us to get our work done we need to be extremely efficient.

Having the right equipment, materials and parts that are functional and organized in a way that can be easily found and transported is extremely important to our team section’s ability to complete our work for the people of Illinois.

What prepared you for your current role?

I graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s in landscape architecture. Following that, I worked for a multidisciplinary engineering and architecture firm, where I worked with multiple professional design disciplines. This experience really opened my eyes to the complex nature of development projects.

Whether it’s a new retail store or a roadway project, it takes a team of professionals to successfully com­plete these projects. In the 15 years before I joined IDOT, I worked for an ecological restoration firm. This experience prepared me for vegetation management and gave me a thor­ough understanding of how to design, install and maintain native plantings and pollinator sites successfully.

What do you like to do outside the office?

I enjoy fishing the lakes of northern Wisconsin every chance I get. My wife and I try to take a short trip to a new place at least once a year. We enjoy sampling the local food and drinks in different cities. In the summer, I like to cook out on the smoker and hang out with friends and family. Throughout the year, I enjoy playing Xbox with my youngest daughter and grandson.

Anything else you’d like people to know about you?

I am an Army veteran. I served before college and spent a year stationed in South Korea. In college, I was selected as one of 17 students on a project team to travel to Agra, India, for a site visit. We spent two and a half weeks in India and spent the semester designing a tourism corridor around the Taj Mahal.