Slacum on the road again
Clark Slacum, Orange County engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation since 2000, retired in December in a position enviable by many.
And because of his young age, 52, he doesn’t plan to sit still.
Engineers, he says, are a tradition in the family – his grandfather being a civil engineer.
“I’ve always liked taking apart things and putting them back together,” he says. “I guess I was a natural at it.”
Growing up in Edinburg/McAllen areas, he watched “Family Affair” featuring Brian Keith as Uncle Bill Davis, a single father.
“I used to think it was neat he didn’t have to stay in his office all the time,” Slacum says.
As an engineer himself, Slacum did quite a bit of traveling and was cited at TxDot banquets for “safety on the job” and “no accidents” honors.
“It’s been enjoyable career working with TxDot from start to finish,” he says. “It was nice to be able to have people present a need, then work on a solution and finally see something built.”
He briefly attended Pan American University, where he met his wife Laura, a math teacher at Orangefield High School. In 2009 Laura was one of 46 teachers in the nation selected for the LiftOff Summer Institute at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The institute featured workshops, hands-on activities and scientific presentations. The couple have three children.
Slacum received an engineering degree from the University of Texas in 1981, and obtained his engineering licence in 1986. He spent his first 19 years with TxDot in San Augustine, then was moved to Orange when his predecessor Howard Caldwell transferred to Austin.
Some of the projects Slacum worked on were the old circle removal/Strickland Drive area and the Sabine River Bridge reconstruction.
“It’s satisfying when people are worried about a new project – then to have those fears that didn’t come to pass,” he says.
Of course, folks like to complain about the weather and roadwork and criticisms are a part of the job, Slacum says.
“Unfortunately the work is not permanent. Those things have a life. The stripes wear out, litter accumulates and concrete wears out. One of the biggest difficulties is that if you could just shut off an area – you could get a lot don’t quickly – but you have to make the roads accessible to traffic as well.”
Slacum says that during retirement, he will use his experiences after hurricanes Rita and Ike to volunteer time for disaster aid groups, organizations that build churches or if FEMA needs some extra manpower.
“We (TxDot) don’t get looked at as first responders, but after the storms we were back in the offices right away trying to get some of the roads open again.” Slacum also plans to keep his engineering licence updated.
While Slacum was with TxDot, it was known at other times as the Texas Highway Department and the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation.