Robyn Briggs, community relations coordinator in PennDOT District 6, conducted the interview with Mr. Shemeley.
Elmer Shemeley has been a PennDOT employee since the very beginning. Three years before the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was formed, he began working for PennDOT's forerunner, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. Today, Shemeley is a Senior Civil Engineer Supervisor in Montgomery County-based District 6. He's been serving the commonwealth for more than 53 years.
A graduate of Penn State University, Elmer Shemeley's first day with the Department of Highways was in 1967. He started in an 18-month training program to become a Civil Engineer 3, the equivalent to his current position.
"It's been a good job and I've enjoyed it," Shemeley said. "I've been offered to move up, but I like being out in the field working and running jobs. I don't like working in the office that much."
Aside from all the modern technological advancements, Shemeley says the biggest change in the past 50 years has been a shift in the kind of projects we complete. During his early years on the job, they mostly constructed new roadways and bridges. Today, he's involved with more rehabilitation and preservation projects, such as the rehabilitation of an historic truss bridge on Route 413 in Sellersville.
Shemeley has contributed to many large projects over the years. The most memorable was the Dannehower Bridge in Norristown, Pennsylvania. He was also involved with constructing the Norristown Interchange.
Shemeley feels that the biggest misconception about PennDOT is that people underestimate employees' work ethic. He'd like the public to know that there are different departments with different responsibilities who work together to get the job done.
"The joke is that it takes 6 guys to fill a pothole, and that's not true," Shemeley said. "There's different divisions. Construction is different than maintenance, which is different than right-of-way, which is different than design."
For Shemeley, completing a project is always the most rewarding part of his job. He enjoys being able to look back and see the new bridge or new roadway, knowing it'll be there for years to come.
What will he miss most about working for PennDOT when he retires? The work itself, the people he's worked with, and the friendships he's made along the way.
We're proud to acknowledge Shemeley's experience and dedication as part of our 50-year anniversary celebration. Learn more about PennDOT's history at PennDOT.gov/50years.