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MoDOT employee repairs the roads, then enjoys them

MoDOT employee repairs the roads, then enjoys them

December 30th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Mark Wilson/News TribuneMODOT employee Jason Shafer and his 1963 Ford Galaxy.

Sometimes you just land in a job you love.

Take Jason Shafer, the Missouri Department of Transportation Central District maintenance engineer.

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Shafer's job has taken him places, he said, and he loves that part of it.

"Opportunities arose," Shafer said. "Life's an adventure. You go where the adventure takes you."

The adventure has taken him through a wide range of locations in the state.

"It never was part of my grand plan," he said.

Shafer was born in Cape Girardeau, but grew up on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, he said. He attended college at what was then known as the University of Missouri-Rolla, which is now Missouri University of Science and Technology.

After joining MoDOT, he began working around the Jefferson City area, but spent time in Sikeston, St. Joseph and Hannibal before returning to Jefferson City.

A memorable task from Hannibal happened in 2008, a year when the Mississippi River rose out of its banks, he said.

A levee had broken.

"The river had come up. We knew it was coming," Shafer said. "A concern was flooding on (U.S.) Highway 61 in Lewis County."

The nearest detour would have added 50 miles to travelers' routes, he said.

So crews built a berm to deflect the rising water from the road.

For about five years before he took his current position, Shafer was an assistant to the engineer who preceded him. He got the job in July 2017.

The primary concerns of his position, Shafer said, is to be certain to take care of mowing, pavement repair and drainage issues for roads in 18 counties. MoDOT has 24 maintenance facilities in the district, he said.

"My job is to look from about 30,000 feet at all things maintenance," Shafer said.

Meanwhile, he mentors younger engineers and other employees who remind him of himself a few years ago.

"We've been hiring a lot of people the last few years. Watching them grow in their careers has been very satisfying," he said.

Shafer, who has a wife and teenage daughter, said he's often traveling with them when he's not maintaining the roads. He considers older vehicles and their maintenance a hobby in which he's deeply involved.

He's had a few older cars over the years.

One he has right now is a four-door 1963 Ford Galaxy, which has been in the family since 1964. Shafer's father bought it for his aunt.

It passed down to him, and he began maintaining it. In 1990, he repainted it. In 2012, he had the engine rebuilt.

"It's pretty much all original," Shafer said. "Since (2012), I've taken it on two different trips down south and went to five or six states each time."