MERCER COUNTY PennDot manager retires

The PennDOT supervisor served his entire 30 years in Mercer County.
MERCER, Pa. -- Donald L. Harpst says he won't be idle when he turns out the light in his office for the last time today.
Harpst, 59, is retiring after 30 years' service with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the last six as maintenance manager for Mercer County.
He hunts and fishes, and he plans to spend more time doing both.
He also likes to garden and said, "I've got an apple orchard that needs attended."
He lives in Delaware Township with his wife, JoLinda, and their dog, Muffin.
His career: Harpst served his entire 30-year career in the county, first as a highway foreman and later having a variety of posts, including assistant manager, until his appointment as manager in September 1995.
PennDOT has undergone "a tremendous change" during his career, Harpst said.
It's come from being a much-maligned agency to an organization that is respected for the capable work it does, he said.
"We're streamlined. We've got much better equipment and the personnel is a lot better," he said, pointing out that the old patronage system that provided jobs for friends and family of those in political power is long gone.
PennDOT also has developed a commitment to customer service, Harpst said.
Developed program: His top achievement has been the development of the AGILITY program in Mercer County, he said.
That program has PennDOT form working relationships and agreements with local municipalities to perform work on a quid pro quo basis. Member municipalities and the state each perform work for the other that they can do in a more cost-effective manner.
Harpst said the direct involvement with local municipal employees has benefited the motoring public.
He's also proud of what he believes is an excellent labor-management relationship in the county PennDOT office.
"I'm going to miss the people. I've met a lot of wonderful people," Harpst said, adding that he won't miss the job's daily grind.
He has received a number of state honors for his work, including the Secretary of Transportation's Outstanding Service Management Award, PennDOT's highest employee honor, in 1986 while serving as county maintenance manager coordinator. He also won PennDOT's Quality Coach Award.

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