Carla Flickinger is going to travel.
The secretary in the Missouri Highway Patrol’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Division, Flickinger is retiring as of July 1.
The office licenses all of the inspection stations and inspector/mechanics in the state. If the Highway Patrol receives reports of violations of inspection law, it sends those to the troops where the violations are reported for investigation.
If residents call into the office and complain about a station or mechanic — they may have gone to a station where the car failed, then taken the vehicle to another station where it passed — the local troop may investigate.
If the investigators find there may have been a violation, a report is made.
“That report comes across my desk,” Flickinger said. “We look at the files, and we look at the complaint.”
Flickinger then generates a “suspension letter” — which could also be a revocation letter — to the mechanic or station.
The department may revoke inspection privileges for the station or mechanic for periods of 30 days up to a year.
The division also hosts administrative hearings for stations or mechanics found, through undercover investigations, to have violated the law.
The state has an average of about 4,400 inspection stations licensed during any given year.
“We have violations, when you have that many stations,” Flickinger said. “Do we get them every day? No. But, we do have them.”
There are a lot of stations and mechanics in the state of Missouri.
“We’re trying to inform the public and inform them of when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes somebody may be trying to make a quick buck,” she said. “We want safer highways.”
Flickinger began her career at the Highway Patrol right after high school in Westphalia.
“Jeff City was the big city for us,” she said.
As a senior in high school who excelled at typing and shorthand, she had worked half-days at the Department of Natural Resources.
At 18, Flickinger decided a couple of weeks before she graduated to go out and “beat the concrete.” She went in person to each of the departments where she thought she might enjoy beginning a career.
“I knocked on the door,” Flickinger said, and knocked on the table in front of her for emphasis. “I asked to talk to someone.”
She showed her credentials but got numerous rejections. She was overqualified for general clerical positions, they said.
Flickinger was at DNR one day when a colleague told her there was a phone call for her. (As a part-timer, she didn’t even have her own phone.)
So she retrieved the call. It was from the Highway Patrol. It turned out to be the captain of human resources. They asked her to stop by later that day.
She drove over to the headquarters, was escorted upstairs and sat down one-on-one with a patrolman.
“He talked to me for a couple of minutes. It was Friday afternoon, and he asked me if I could start Monday,” she said.
She started out as a stenographer — levels 1, 2 and 3. Then she moved up to a secretary and moved up through those levels.
“I started out making — gross — $817 per month,” Flickinger said. “That just blows my mind when I think about it.”
Flickinger and her husband, Troy, have plans to travel as soon as she gets away.
They’ve set aside time to travel out west to experience some of the mountains.
They’ve done it before.
“This time, we’re going back into Washington, but we’re going to visit some areas we didn’t get to visit before,” Flickinger said. “Then we’re going into Montana. Whitefish is spectacular.”
She’s hoping to visit Las Vegas, too, at some point.
“I’m proud to have worked here. It really has been, for me, my home away from home,” she said. “I’ve spent more time with these people than anybody else. When you come in young, you feel like you grow up here.”