After more than 30 years of road repairs, storms and paving, Don Spear is retiring from county service. Village Life photo by Krysten Kellum

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Don Spear hits the road

By From page A1 | October 11, 2017

Don Spear knows El Dorado County’s roads — every curve, every bridge, every inch of pavement. He’s seen roads crumble and bridges rise.

The 30-plus year transportation employee recently hung up his hard hat and reflective vest, accepting three standing ovations and a unanimously passed resolution marking his retirement at a recent El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“It’s been a privilege to serve El Dorado County,” a slightly tearful Spear said, noting he began his career in June 1986 as an extra-help employee. “As I said at my retirement party, it’s been a long, strange trip.”

The now former deputy director of Transportation, Maintenance and Operations Unit, thanked his staff, coworkers and those he’s worked with over the years for helping him move up in the ranks. And while he acknowledged that it’s going to be strange not having to get up at 4:30 a.m. to go to work, he said, “I think I can make that adjustment.

“I’ve got plenty to do,” he added, gesturing to his wife Cindy. “The list gets bigger every day.”

The list of accolades Spear received at the Sept. 26 board meeting was also quite long.

Several Grizzly Flat residents thanked Spear for his commitment to the community’s fire safe council. “We totally love and respect Don for his community involvement,” said FSC President Mark Almer, who called him an “incredibly dedicated county employee.”

That was followed by compliments of “responsive and caring” and “one of a kind.”

The supervisors acknowledged Spear’s in-depth knowledge of El Dorado County’s transportation issues.

“I am amazed at your knowledge of every mile of road in my district. I appreciate that,” District 4 Supervisor Michael Ranalli said.

He presented Spear with a plaque made from an old juniper tree that fell on the Rubicon Trail a few years ago. Spear and DOT staff coordinated with Pollock Pines axe men to remove the tree and, Ranalli said, this plaque celebrates Spear’s “history of collaboration with our Parks Department … and keeping that trail open.”

“You’ve always been there for my district — through all the storms of ’16-17, through all the chip seal,” District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel added.

District 3 Supervisor Brian Veerkamp, who has known Spear since high school, called him “irreplaceable.” District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl said Spear is the “most responsive, dependable employee” he’s dealt with in nine months as supervisor.

In addition to receiving praise from the board, District 2 Supervisor Shiva Frentzen said her constituents also truly appreciate Spear’s help and responsiveness over the years.

John Kahling, deputy director of Transportation, Engineering Unit, told the board and audience he’s enjoyed sharing information with and learning from Spear over the last 15 years. He also noted he’s had fun hanging out with Don at Raiders’ games, where they can leave the office behind for a while.

“After one exciting game … Don was captured on video in the parking lot celebrating,” Kahling teased. “He made me swear that the video would never be revealed.”

“Oh, do you have it today?” Frentzen asked as laughter in the audience grew louder.

“No, I don’t have it today,” Kahling answered. “I will not divulge it until Monday.”

Village Life didn’t receive any word on whether Kahling followed through with that promise.

After the speakers Spear thanked everyone again, especially Kahling for not sharing the video. “It’s probably very incriminating and would probably sully my reputation some,” he joked.

Spear also told the board he’s confident in DOT’s leadership and his replacement, Brian Mullens, saying he’s leaving the county in “good hands.”

Highlights noted in the resolution recognizing Don Spear include:

  • Don was instrumental in modernizing equipment and the expansion of the Fleet Services Shop.
  • He frequently assisted the Parks Division with inspections and maintenance on the El Dorado Trail including the Weber Creek Bridge repair project.
  • Don has frequently been involved in the maintenance of the Rubicon Trail by providing the crew for three successful helicopter operations. Coordinating these projects was no small task. Don was organized and well prepared and those working with him were impressed with Don’s efficient use of manpower and equipment.
  • In 2008 he received an award from the American Public Works Association for managing the White Meadow Road slip-out repair project.
  • In 2015, when the King Fire scorched over 97,000 acres in El Dorado County, Don assisted with the emergency response efforts and was project manager for the emergency road repairs for Wentworth Springs and White Meadow Roads.
  • Representing the Transportation Department, Don has regularly participated in the Grizzly Flats Fire Safe Council’s Wildfire Tabletop Evacuation Drill.
  • In 2016 he was recognized by the Grizzly Flats Fire Safe Council for his outstanding service and dedication to the community.

Noel Stack

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