By Tim Potter
John Wiens has worked for KDOT longer than many KDOT employees have been alive – 42 years.
All of those years he served the state, he was based in Hutchinson, most of it at the District Five Office. And in those four-plus decades, he developed rapport with co-workers and customers. So, on the eve of his retirement, John said, it was hard not to feel sentimental.
He put it this way: “It’s kind of like saying goodbye to a family member, you know?”
As Engineering Technician Senior, John has worked out of a cool, calm basement – sort of a library for highway plans in the District Office. His job has had varied roles. He has been keeper and provider of highway plans and contract paperwork, some of it going back more than 100 years. He has assisted with computer-aided design. He has been responsible for inspecting 34 airports in the district. (He is a licensed commercial pilot.) For nearly 30 years, he has helped set up and maintain KDOT’s State Fair booth.
The lion’s share of his job has been keeping and retrieving highway records, copies of which hang in that basement. “There’s a lot of paperwork involved with building a highway,” John noted.
He has been the archivist of original construction sheets for highways that have evolved over the decades. He knows the history. He pointed out a sheet diagraming a brick-paved 96 Highway from Hutchinson to Nickerson, dated 1919. He appreciates the significance: “In 1919, the car was just barely on the road.”
John, born and raised in Hutchinson, started out in the Hutchinson Construction Office in 1979. During his KDOT career, he has always worked in some aspect of highway construction or inspection. In 42 years with KDOT, John has experienced it all: “I was working here in the basement,” he said, “when they brought our first computer into the district.”
Near John’s retirement, District Engineer Brent Terstriep said: “He’s always willing to help people.” District Construction and Materials Engineer Nick Squires said: “He has a wealth of knowledge on our district’s highway system that is going to be hard to replace.”
John and his wife, Michele, will continue to live in Hutchinson, but he plans to visit relatives and friends in Europe. He said his 10-acre property will keep him busy.