- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

RICHMOND Gov. Mark R. Warner yesterday appointed Philip A. Shucet, a top officer of a leading international engineering firm, to head Virginia's troubled highway agency.
Mr. Shucet, 52, takes over as commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on Monday, succeeding interim highway chief Ray Pethtel, Mr. Warner said after introducing Mr. Shucet at a Capitol news conference.
"I think this is a lot of opportunity. I believe the needs of VDOT match up with the skills that I bring from my past public- and private-sector career," said Mr. Shucet, who has held key transportation-agency posts in Arizona and West Virginia.
Mr. Shucet inherits an agency that has come under heavy legislative scrutiny in recent years for projects that routinely have lagged years behind schedule and have topped cost projections by hundreds of millions of dollars.
A study by the General Assembly's investigative arm in November concluded that 40 percent of Virginia's bridges and one-fifth of its major highways needed repairs totaling more than $1.6 billion.
Less than a month after Mr. Warner took office, Transportation Secretary Whitt Clement warned the governor in a letter that it would be impossible to deliver the state's six-year road-building plan on time or on budget. Mr. Warner ordered an investigation of VDOT by state auditor Walter Kucharski as a result.
Despite years of problems and low morale in the department, and although his $130,000-a-year state salary represents a substantial cut from his pay as executive vice president of the Pennsylvania-based Michael Baker engineering firm, Mr. Shucet said he eagerly took the VDOT job.
"I didn't hesitate," he said. "When they contacted me initially, I didn't think about it a lot."
Mr. Shucet was among 125 persons who applied for the job and among a handful of candidates submitted to Mr. Warner by Korn/Ferry International, a professional recruitment firm that performed the nationwide search free of charge.
"We wanted to find the best person. We looked inside and outside [of VDOT], and it was the clear consensus of [Mr. Clement], the search committee and my choice as well that Philip was the right choice as commissioner," Mr. Warner said.
Mr. Shucet, who earned a degree in Russian history at Virginia Tech, said he would undertake a crash course on VDOT over the next few weeks with Mr. Pethtel briefing him. He says he intends to set simple goals for the agency, which employs about 10,000 people and maintains 56,712 miles of state roads and highways.
"The need is for a clear vision and an organization that lines up behind that vision. You've got to get people looking forward and not backward," he said.
Mr. Shucet has worked in transportation since 1972, when he was hired by the West Virginia Department of Transportation. From 1984 to 1988, he worked for the Arizona Department of Transportation.
He began work for the Michael Baker Corp. in 1989, and led a team that did the initial design work for the still-unbuilt third crossing for Hampton Roads, a major tunnel and bridge project.
Mr. Shucet led the financial turnaround of Baker Environmental, once the worst-performing of the Michael Baker operating units.

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