Road chief honored for 3 decades on job
Joe Palic of Marion is hesitant to speak about his 30 years with the Kansas Department of Transportation. He is superintendent of the Marion area and oversees McPherson, Morris, Chase, and Marion counties.
“I’m a low-key guy who likes to stay behind the scenes,” he said. “Others do more important things that have a bigger impact on people, like building bridges and maintaining roads.”
Working from his office, he oversees road and bridge construction as well as maintenance. When a project involves federal money, it is administered through his office.
“I try to run the office so operations stay the same whether I’m here or not,” he said.
“Don’t tell me how to do something, just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it” is the guiding principle he instills in other employees.
When Palic first started at Marion, the department had 70 employees. That number is now in the 40s. Palic credited technology for some of the cutback but mostly a decrease in the area’s population.
When he began working in Marion in 1989, the office had one or two computers, and cell phones were just beginning to come into use. He carried a large cell phone in a big bag. Now everything is electronic. Employees use band radios, and everyone has cell phones. The Internet and e-mail became common around 2000. A large part of Palic’s day is spent going through emails and taking phone calls.
He was raised in northeast Colorado and graduated from Colorado State University in 1988.
A college friend in graduate school in Manhattan convinced him to move to Kansas. He was attracted to the Flint Hills and soon married Jackie Richmond, a Marion girl.
After getting the job with KDOT, he spent one year as engineer in training, then became project engineer in Marion for two years. He transferred to Wichita, which was a “step up,” but returned to the Marion office after five years.
“This job affords us the opportunity to live where we want to live,” he said. “Marion is my home, and I love the Flint Hills.”
The 54-year-old man bicycles 4½ miles to and from work every good-weather day.
He and Jackie have five boys – Chad, 35; Adam, 26; Kyle, 23; Tyler, 18, a student at Kansas State University; and Todd, 16, a sophomore at Marion High School. They have four grandchildren.
Last modified Jan. 24, 2019