- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) [-] Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has chosen the former head of Idaho’s Transportation Department to run Virginia’s Department of Transportation (VDOT), a top Kaine adviser said late Thursday.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, is expected to announce today that he has selected David Ekern to serve as VDOT’s commissioner, the Kaine adviser told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The source asked not to be identified because the governor had not yet made the announcement.

Mr. Ekern served as Idaho’s transportation director for the past three years before retiring last month. Before that, he spent 33 years at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Mr. Ekern’s resignation last month came after an independent report criticized communication and morale within the Idaho Transportation Department.

The study reported that under Mr. Ekern, staffers harbored an “unusual amount of fear” over changes in the agency.

The 16-page report, first obtained by the Associated Press through an open records request, included excerpts from 60 department employees interviewed by former transportation chief Darrell Manning.

It said that department leaders failed to communicate effectively with Idaho’s transportation board and that many of the agency’s 1,800 employees reported they received “too little positive feedback” from their bosses.

Transportation issues were at the heart of this year’s unprecedented budget impasse in the General Assembly.

Mr. Kaine and a bipartisan majority in the Republican-controlled Senate insist that significant new revenue is needed for a meaningful solution to the state’s transportation woes.

But Republican conservatives who control the House of Delegates oppose tax increases.

VDOT has not had a permanent director since Philip Shucet resigned in July 2005.

Mr. Shucet said that he was quitting to spend more time with his family in Virginia Beach. He often expressed frustration with the highway agency’s meager resources, but said that had nothing to do with his decision to leave.

Mr. Ekern did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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