Celebrating a Record Career in Highway Safety

After 33 years in Washington State government, Angie Ward is officially retiring on July 31, 2019. When she leaves state service, Ward will have worked for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) for 26.5 of those 33 years. Records indicate that this is the longest tenure of any employee in the agency’s 52-year history.

Ward is a Thurston County native, born in Olympia and raised on her Ward and Van Lierop family farm on Yelm Highway picking strawberries, weeding, and selling corn and pumpkins from a truck on the roadside. Ward didn’t think a career in state government was in her future. But when she had an opportunity to work in Governor John Spellman’s office in 1984, her career was set in motion.

“Learning the value of excellent customer service selling produce as a kid really came in handy as I learned the ins and outs of a political office,” Ward said.

After a brief couple of years working out of state, Ward returned to Thurston County in late 1986 and began working as a receptionist in Governor Booth Gardner’s office. After six years, she ended her career with the Gardner Administration as head of Administrative Services.

Ward began working at WTSC in January, 1993 as an Executive Assistant to the agency Director. Over the next 26 years, she eventually managed nearly every agency highway safety program including Seatbelts and Child Passenger Safety (Click It or Ticket), Impaired Driving (Drive Hammered-Get Nailed), Speeding (Slow Down or Pay Up), Young Drivers and new driver licensing, Senior Drivers, Distracted Driving (Text Talk Ticket), Motorcycles, Pedestrians and Bicycles, and Communications.

“I’ve been mentored by some super-cool experts in the traffic safety field who’ve built upon my farm girl foundation by encouraging critical thinking as I’ve helped to craft programs designed to save lives and reduce injuries on our roads,” Ward said. “I didn’t choose safety, but safety chose me, and I am a better person for it.”

When asked about the motivation for doing highway safety work, Ward replied, “The benefits of working in traffic safety are all encompassed in the feeling I get at the end of each day – knowing the work we did here at WTSC might change a driver’s behavior, prevent a serious crash, and save a life.”

Ward proudly describes the WTSC as “the little agency that could” and says it’s been a dreamy place to make a living. She says she is not “retiring from work”, but leaving state service to continue serving people through her many different interests and passions. Most weekends in the spring, summer, and fall you can find her working for her cousin at Van’s Burger and The Sweet Spot near her childhood farm on Yelm Highway. She is a musician performing shows with her husband in the acoustic duo known as Austin Radio. She is a member of Washington State Funeral and Cemetery Board. She is a Hospice volunteer. She is passionate about exploring the options around death and dying and green burial as an active member of the National Home Funeral Alliance. It’s an exciting time for this work as Washington recently became the first state in the nation to pass a law allowing human composting as an alternative to traditional burial or cremation.

Ward says she is excited to put her energies elsewhere, even when it feels like she’s leaving WTSC at a time when things are more interesting and stimulating than ever.  There is exciting work to be done around traffic safety culture, improving driver license training and testing, and the challenges of helping our citizens understand the advancing technology in their vehicles.

Ward will be missed at WTSC. Her co-workers describe her as a leader, teammate, mentor, and friend. They are proud to celebrate her long career dedicated to making Washington a safer and better place to live. We wish her all the health and happiness in her next chapter.