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Getting to Know You: Dean Scott, Traffic Safety Program Official

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Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Dean Scott is the youngest of eight siblings; seven brothers and one sister.

Upon completing high school in 1987, Dean was selected to represent his graduating class as valedictorian. He then enlisted in the US Army as a military police officer, ultimately serving for 20 years, including a combat tour in Iraq and a humanitarian mission in Zaire. Dean Scott was awarded the Bronze Star for valor in combat in 2006.

After retiring from the Army, Dean decided to continue his education. In 1994, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State University Pueblo before going on to achieve a Master’s Degree in Management from Murray State University in 2004. Five years later he would become a Pastor, eventually taking a position at New Kingdom and Faith Restoration Church, which serves as the primary food provider in the Greater Northland Area of Kansas City and feeds more than 100 families a month.

Dean Scott currently works for the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) where he provides grant oversight for traffic safety programs and manages the financial disbursements and reimbursements of program grant funds. This year, he received the NHTSA Superior Achievement Award, which is the highest honor given to a non-management employee.

When he is not working, Dean Scott enjoys riding motorcycles, reading comic books, playing pickleball, and spending time with his wife and three children.

What do you currently do at your company?

I provide oversight of traffic safety grants working for the National Highway Traffic Administration. Daily, my purview is the state of Arkansas. I oversee the enforcement of our ‘Click It or Ticket’ and ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaigns, as well as our text messaging which is called ‘One Text or Call Wrecks It All.’ I try to get the relevant agencies to carry out enforcement and use these media campaigns to drive education and awareness throughout the state. I also perform oversight on the financials, which basically means making sure our funds are used to purchase proper equipment and checking that everything our campaign spends money on is authorized through state and federal regulations.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

When I was in the Army, I was a military police officer and so I did a lot of traffic safety enforcement. I figured it was a good transition to move into a more civilian-oriented way of bringing law enforcement into communities. I really get a lot of satisfaction from making Arkansas safer from impaired drivers, and jut safer for people in general.

What keys to being productive can you share?

For me, the keys to being productive are being on time, understanding what the needs are at the moment in your industry, and in understanding those needs are, asking yourself what you can do to fulfill those needs. Earlier this year, I received the Superior Achievement award from NHTSA, which is the highest award that a non-management employee can receive. What I did to earn that commendation was examine every area of our operations, from customer service to leadership to technical assistance to innovation. In those categories, I exceeded the expectations of my organization. That’s also how I go about my daily operations in order to optimize my productivity.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

I’m getting older and I am looking forward to retirement, but I still have five or six more years to work. In that time, I would like to become a manager in the federal government as a GS-14 and oversee traffic safety grants as a whole in five states as a deputy administrator. I’m currently in region seven, which consists of Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. I want to be the Deputy Administrator over all five of those states in order to help them with their grant management.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

I’ve learned to minimize mistakes, keep integrity as my number one priority, do my best to understand the constituents that I work with, and make sure that communication lines are always open. Once you lose the lines of communication, it’s the beginning of the end.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

I would tell them to study and read every regulation that’s related to traffic safety, from management of pupil transportation to understanding all the rules surrounding impaired drivers in each state. I would also tell them to learn all the information available in the realm of occupant protection, which is the term we use for keeping people safe in vehicles. A person needs to thoroughly understand all these things if they really want to be successful in NHTSA.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

I like to play pickleball. In fact, I love it. It keeps me active and keeps my energy levels up. I also like to ride motorcycles. Recently, I rode to Des Moines, Iowa and it was a lot of fun. I always wear a helmet, gloves, and full gear. Additionally, I love to read comic books and I love sports. My favorite teams are the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m originally from Baltimore, so the Ravens would be my second favorite football team, but I’ve grown very fond of the Indianapolis Colts. My whole house is decked out in blue and white, which are the Colts’s colors.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

You have to separate your work life and your home life. Maintaining that balance is difficult, because sometimes things from work will run into your off time, but you can’t let it overburden your personal life. My advice would be when you are off, make sure that you’re truly off. If you have to work later to make sure that you don’t bring your work home with you, then I would say work later. I think once you’re home, you need that time to recalibrate, especially if you’re married and have children.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Every week I have over four to five teleconference meetings with different constituents who are connected to our Traffic Safety business. Those two platforms have been incredibly helpful.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

The hardest obstacle I’ve overcome was when I was serving in Iraq. We were losing a lot of people in combat. I thought I was going to die. I thought everyone on my battle team was going to die. Each day, there were IEDs, which are improvised explosive devices, placed on the roadways we used. About six months into my tour, we began to develop some effective strategies for moving platoons and companies and squads safely across the battlefield. One of the biggest challenges was just keeping those soldiers motivated to complete their duties and get through the battle because we had to stay there; we weren’t leaving. Eventually, we started taking fewer casualties towards the end of my tour.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My friend Eric has been a very good friend, but he has also taught me how to navigate church business and food pantry operations for our charity work feeding those in need. He’s been a great friend and a great help to me. He’s a man of integrity. At one point, I went through some struggles with moral issues, and he was able to help me get through those things. I will always give him credit as a great role model.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

One piece of advice my mother gave me is to never stop working. I’ve always kept that thought in my mind: I should be working, I should be grinding, I should be doing something productive because my mother does not permit idle time. She always told me to keep working, so that’s what I’ve been doing for my whole life.

What does success look like to you?

Success to me is seeing my children become self-sufficient, great role models, great citizens, and achieving their professional goals. That is total success, from my point of view. I grew up without a father, so it was very hard for me to navigate certain aspects of life. My mother did a great job, but there was a missing piece in my upbringing. I’m glad to be present as a father to see my three kids prosper in whatever their endeavors might be.

What is one piece of advice you would like to leave our readers with?

One piece of advice I would like to leave with the readers is to never think that you’re not equipped to learn. Always read things. Make sure you arm yourself with information because information is power. Whatever field you’re in, whether it be electronics or the auto industry or traffic safety, learn every nuance of your job. If you learn every nuance, you’re going to be unstoppable.