“We have worked hard to get new blood into the organization, to make people make a career out of DOTD,” Kalivoda said. “This is a big issue.”
A straight talker
Kalovida, who is from Baton Rouge, got his undergraduate degree from LSU; master’s degree from the University of Arizona and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.
His precedessor Shawn Wilson was chatty, gregarious and outgoing. In contrast, Kaviloda, a professional environmental and civil engineer, is all business, especially when appearing before legislative committees.
“I don’t want to engage in rhetorical dancing with people,” Kalivoda said.
Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, former chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, echoed that description.
“He is just a very stick-to-the-facts kind of guy,” Cortez said of Kalivoda.
Former DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas, who elevated Kalivoda to deputy secretary in 2010, also called her former top lieutenant “no frills,” “straight to the point,” and experienced. House Transportation Committee Chair Mark Wright, R-Covington, said Kalivoda’s expertise is particularly useful for an agency that will juggle several major projects in the coming months.
Better than expected state revenue has DOTD in line for $497 million under Edwards’ proposed budget for the 2023 regular legislative session, which begins April 10. That includes $352 million to help offset inflation that has hiked costs by an average of 30% per year.
After working as a state DOTD intern and then briefly for the Arizona Department of Transportation, Kalivoda has been at DOTD fulltime since 1994.
That’s long enough, he said, to hear taxpayer jokes about why the state built the little-used, $408 million John J. Audubon Bridge that connects New Roads and St. Francisville when Baton Rouge desperately needs a new one of its own.
Though the bridge opened in 2011, the foundation for it was laid under former Gov. Buddy Roemer’s administration. Lawmakers were trying to secure the votes more than three decades ago to get a major road and bridge spending plan on the ballot.
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