A shout out to Tom Huber
This week we bid farewell to Tom Huber, who is retiring from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation after more than 20 years with the agency, including a long stint as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. Actually, more than just a long stint: Tom Huber pretty much defines the position of State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator – he is one of the very few coordinators left in that role from the class of 1992, the year the position was mandated in every state for the first time by ISTEA. (Paul Douglas in Texas…are you there, Paul?)
There are a lot of really nice people involved in the bicycling world – Tom is at the top of that pile! For twenty years he’s plugged away at the Department, slowly changing hearts and minds in favor of better bicycling policies and projects through a critical blend of doggedness, reasonableness, optimism and creativity. He’s been able to work well with advocates, the local bike industry, engineers, planners, on-and off-road riders all with the same constructive, open and accessible manner – always with a little disarming humor thrown in there.
Tom has also been an immense help to the emerging bike/pedestrian profession through his service to the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals – Wisconsin hosted the first APBP Professional Development Seminar; Madison has also been home to the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference, the League’s bike education conference and much more. The state’s own bike/ped conferences have always been good value. Tom has served on numerous critical Transportation Research Board project review teams; he is a mainstay for Federal Highway and NHTSA project advisory groups; he was instrumental in helping us get the Bicycle Friendly State program in good shape. There’s a good reason he’s tapped for all this: he is always thoughtful, not at all dogmatic, totally reliable, and just a pleasant guy to work with.
But, he’s not without faults. Honestly, by now he should have been running the Wisconsin Department of Transportation – and the agency and state would have been better off for him doing that. And, getting phone calls from Tom has always been a little irritating. He’ll call up and talk about an issue or problem he’s grappling with, then he’ll tell you the solution that he’s already figured out (while you are racking your brains on the other end of the phone line thinking “what am I going to suggest here”) and leave you with nothing helpful to recommend or say in response.
In a quiet, undemonstrative career as Wisconsin’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, Tom has had a profoundly beneficial influence on the bicycling movement and profession and it’s going to be hard to think of Wisconsin without thinking of Tom Huber. Don’t worry, though, he hasn’t died. In fact, he’s going to get a new lease of life working with the fabulous team at Toole Design starting at the end of the Summer. I hope you are going to take some time for yourself and your family, Tom, because your extended family is eagerly awaiting your return to work as a consultant.