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Longtime county employee Joe Gieselman to retire

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 by Michelle Jimenez

Joe Gieselman, executive manager of Travis County’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department, announced during Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting that he plans to retire early next year, after nearly four decades with the county.


“It’s time for me to move on and hand off my duties to new leadership,” Gieselman, 62, told the court, whose members he had notified in advance.


He will retire effective Jan. 31, after marking 36 years of service.


As head of Transportation and Natural Resources, known as TNR internally, Gieselman oversees the equivalent of half a dozen or so city departments (See In Fact Daily, June 1, 2010). To name just a few duties, he is in charge of maintaining more than 1,000 miles of county roads, oversees all new construction, and enforces and regulates environmental programs.


“He has been threatening to retire for some time, and we keep loading projects on him, hoping he will be so intrigued by the projects he will stay,” County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt told In Fact Daily. “It’s not too strong to say that our strong right arm in policy is walking out the door.”


Gieselman worked himself up the ranks during his years with the county. Among his proudest accomplishments, he told In Fact Daily, is the work he did in planning for growth, including building and maintaining roads. When he started working for the Travis County, its population was about 250,000. Now, it’s more than 1 million.


“When you look at that magnitude of growth … it doesn’t come automatically,” he said. “You have got to plan. You have got to anticipate things.”


According to Eckhardt, Gieselman was passionate about that planning and the other areas in his purview, arguing his position behind closed doors until the very last minute.


“He’s a fierce competitor, and he has no problem speaking truth to power,” she said. “If once power makes a decision he doesn’t like, he sucks it up and gets it done.”


Gieselman made his intentions public during the portion of the meeting allotted for citizens’ comments, citing lyrics from the Kenny Roger’s song “The Gambler,” which advises that one has to “know when to walk away.”


Commissioners gave him a standing ovation.


So what will Gieselman do after he retires? He plans to focus on an interest he has pursued for some time.


“I plan to become a sculptor,” he said.

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