Eye On Boise

New ITD chief: ‘Focus on moving the department forward’

Brian W. Ness, new Idaho Transportation director (Betsy Russell)
Brian W. Ness, new Idaho Transportation director (Betsy Russell)

Newly named Idaho Transportation Director Brian Ness, who will start work Jan. 11, told Eye on Boise, "My focus has to be on moving the department forward, and that's what I intend to do." Asked why the longtime Michigan transportation official decided to apply for the Idaho post, he said he's often visited, and has family in the region. "It's just a nice area of the country to live in," Ness said. "And when I did the research for the position, the staff was just phenomenal. There's a lot of good things here going on as an organization that I'd like to be part of."

Ness, 51, said the "key things that I'm big on" are team work, customer focus and building and developing strong partnerships. Asked how he'll cope with a department that's clearly underfunded for the huge task it faces in maintaining the state's transportation system, he said, "Well, I know there's a governor's task force that's working on that right now, and I think our role, the Idaho Transportation Department, is to give them information that's accurate, credible and good information so they can use that in formulating what their final recommendations would be to the governor, and then, when that's completed, we'll take a look at that and determine where we go for funding transportation in Idaho in the future."

In his current post as a regional administrator for Michigan DOT, Ness said he's worked closely with state legislators from his region, a key part of his job as it was for the state's other six regional administrators. He said what worked for him was "just face-to-face honest communication, a lot of one-on-one communication, just the relationship-building, so that when you talk to them they know you're credible, that you're going to do the right thing, that they can take what you say to the bank." Asked how he's handled political pressure - a key issue in the dispute over the firing of his predecessor at ITD, Pam Lowe - Ness said, "I just worked very hard to establish credibility with our local elected officials, and if we couldn't do something based on policy or procedure, my reputation was good enough with them that I was able to say, 'No, we can't do that,' and they understood why and we moved on."




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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