We caught up with Wynn Wilkerson to learn about his role and extensive experience working in our Infrastructure group as he nears retirement.
When did you start working at Raba Kistner and why did you decide to join the firm?
In May of 2004 I retired from TxDOT and was confronted by three different agencies to work for. John Roberts (Project Quality Auditor – Austin) and Robert Wilson (former Senior Vice President – Infrastructure) wanted to meet me for lunch. I came to Raba Kistner because of John as we had worked with each other in TxDOT for many years.
What is a day in the life like for you as a Senior Inspector?
When I was allowed to go out into the field, which I enjoyed, I met with subcontractors and aligned my schedule with their operations. I’m not allowed to go out into the field these days after a double lung transplant – dirt can grow fungus, which could be really harmful to me. I planned my day according to the subcontractors. I did traffic signals, overhead sign structures, intelligent transportation (ITS) systems, roadway lighting (including highway lighting) and drill shafts. These days I am primarily focused on managing our fleet of 62 trucks that our staff uses and overseeing safety initiatives.
How has your work evolved since you starting working at Raba Kistner 16 years ago?
When we started building State Highway 130 we started with open land. The tollway runs from Seguin to Georgetown (north of Austin), providing motorists with relief from the I-35 traffic. When I was first hired on I was reviewing plans that required underground bores and trenching. These steps were done for the installation of underground lines for signs and intrusion Prevention System (IPS) lines for camera recording systems. We started with IPS conduits and then the electrical contractor moved in.
What do you like most about what you do?
Every day is a different day. You may think doing the same type of operations are the same. Any type of inspector—no matter his expertise—will tell that project operations can change daily. The little things show up and you’ll have go back to your plans and specifications. Many times I’ve consulted with more experienced people and go off of their advice in these situations. In my 40-year career there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t learn something. I love Raba Kistner. I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to work here and I’ll give them everything I’ve got, even as I slow down and move towards retirement.
Who are you working with on a regular basis inside Raba Kistner and externally?
I deal with all of my drivers. I manage 62 fleet vehicles. I’m either dealing with the admin people who are working on the projects along with the drivers to ensure that they have their paperwork correct and vehicle maintenance done. They need parts, equipment, safety equipment. I need their paperwork. It’s an intense job and I love it. I’m working with Ryan Roznovak, Administrative Coordinator – Austin, as I am working part time and moving towards retirement. Another person will become safety officer and fleet manager.
How do you support workplace safety in your role?
I think about safety every day. I have led safety meetings for the TX State Highway 183 job, which is winding down. My weekly safety meetings have slowed down. For employees in the office I have a monthly safety meeting for them. I’ve been conducting monthly safety meetings since 2012. I’m having Ryan Roznovak help take over some of these responsibilities. I do my best to remind employees of the need to focus on safety. I’ll be there whenever they need me.
What are a few of the most interesting projects that you’ve worked on over the years?
SH-130. That was interesting and when that was completed I was asked by HDR (a respected A/E/C firm) to help with a big underground boring operation for something that they call dip lines – 27000 volts or 110000 volts. We had a major boring operation under Highway TX-71 near SH-130. Since I had worked with large bores before with TxDOT – they asked if it I would work on it for them and I agreed. That project lasted for six or seven months. The conduit had to be extremely smooth on the inside by polishing it. As the extremely large wiring was pushed through the conduit, it couldn’t scrape any of the insulation. I worked directly with the City of Austin inspector and HDR. When completed there were no issues and the system is currently in use. The type of boring that we did was not directional and involved using an open trench, bringing the boring machine down inside of it. As the boring happens we installed steel casing segments and welded them together. It’s pretty intense but a lot of fun. What was going inside the casing was 6 four-inch conduits. Before we started we had to ream the edges of the conduits with grinders. We then poured a wet type of concrete to protect the conduit — a flowable concrete fill into the casing– similar to inserting a straw into an enclosed cup and pouring liquid through the straw to fill it up. On the other side we had a hole that let the air out as the casings were filling up. Once the fill hardens within the casings it protects the wiring and conduit against others doing backhoe work or other disturbances.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love going to movies. I’m a big movie nut. I’m a big NASCAR fan. I’ve been involved with racing for over 50 years. I worked at Texas World Speedway as pit boss – I did that for seven years.
What advice would you give to our employees who are just starting their careers in your field?
Be smart. When in doubt about something – don’t. If you have a doubt about what you’re supposed to be doing – go to your supervisor, present the situation. Ask them for advice. Study, study, study. Ask questions. The only stupid question is the one that is never asked. Go to your fellow employees. I worked with contractors and subcontractors and asked their opinions of things. It’s better to be on the same playing field as them than assume you’re higher than they are. Never stop learning.