Weekender Ride

You could be the manager of ODOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program

Posted by on August 17th, 2017 at 11:15 am

You could have a hand in creating ODOT’s bike safety PSAs!
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The hiring binge at the Oregon Department of Transportation continues and they just announced a new opening that has the transportation reform crowd buzzing.

ODOT’s current Safe Routes to School and Bike/Ped Safety Coordinator Julie Yip is retiring and the agency is looking for someone to replace her. In the job description, ODOT says the new hire will oversee the existing safety programs for bicycling and walking and will also, “develop and implement transportation safety programs and projects.”

This is one of those “guru” positions that — with the right person — could have a significant impact on biking and walking locally and statewide. While the scope of this job is crucially important (especially with an alarming rise in traffic deaths in recent years) and relatively broad, unfortunately the pay isn’t quite what we’d hope for. Just $41,000 to $60,000 a year probably isn’t enough to snag someone with a lot of experience and swagger to make big things happen. Also note that under “special qualifications” ODOT says, “Driving is an essential function of this position. A valid driver license and an acceptable driving record are required for this position.”

Here’s the list of “duties and responsibilities”:

– Develop, direct, and coordinate safety programs to reduce Oregon traffic crashes and fatalities, specifically those involving bicycles or pedestrians, and other vulnerable users, as applicable.
– Oversee program budgets.
– Ensure compliance with program requirements and priorities.
– Develop program performance measures.
– Select and manage safety grant projects.
– Evaluate programs and projects and report findings.
– Coordinate the Transportation Safety Division’s involvement in bicycle and/or pedestrian traffic safety issues and identify problems at the state and local levels.
– Facilitate the participation of advocates and citizens involved in bicycle and pedestrian safety.
– Make presentations to various groups on bicycle and pedestrian safety including walkable communities.
– Monitor bicycle or pedestrian-related concepts and bills during legislative sessions.
– Draft press releases, newspaper and magazine articles, and public service announcements.
– Serve as the state’s SME (subject matter expert) on the program


Keep in mind that whoever lands in this position will have oversight of the agency’s many walking and biking-related public service ad campaigns. Coming off what happened with Representative Jeff Reardon’s PSA, we could really use someone sharp to set a more effective tone down in Salem. And ODOT sorely needs fresh thinking in this department. In the past the agency has done their share of victim-blaming and the director of their Traffic Safety Division, Troy Costales, once signed onto a national statement about the scourge of “aggressive pedestrians”.

But there’s hope! In part due to retirements, there’s a new (and younger) guard of ODOT employees with a different perspective. In 2015 ODOT created the very effective and respectful Oregonian Crossing PSA campaign.

This position is part of a massive ODOT hiring effort resulting from the passage of the $5.3 billion transportation package this past session and end of a statewide hiring freeze.

Please share this with your smartest friends. We need ODOT to have as many reform-minded employees as possible if we have any chance of making our transportation system work for everyone.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • bikeninja August 17, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I think the first big step for this position would be to arrange things so the new person could carry out their job using a combination of transit, walking and cycling. To really see the changes that need to be made you must get out from behind the steering wheel.

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    • J_R August 17, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      Meetings of the Bicycle Advisory Committee and meetings with city and county bicycle coordinators are held all over the state. Do you really want to pay for someone to spend four days of travel time to attend a meeting in Ontario, Klamath Falls, or Brookings?

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      • B. Carfree August 18, 2017 at 6:03 pm

        Um, even if one chose to ride a bike, it’s a two-day ride from Salem to pretty much any city in the state. However, there are also train and bus options.

        There’s plenty of people at ODOT with windshield perspectives (like 100%). It would be nice it ODOT would allow someone to work for them who was clearly immune to such a failing. I would settle for simply someone who is resistant to it, which would be someone with a license who voluntarily chooses to not drive whenever there is an alternative (even when it’s a little more time-consuming or inconvenient).

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  • Mike Quigley August 17, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Forty one to sixty thousand a year PLUS PERS. You forgot to add plus PERS which makes the deal much attractive.

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    • Steve August 17, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Current PERS ain’t all that.

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    • Oy August 17, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      Don’t say PERS or you-know-who will come out of the woodwork!

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    • Chris I August 17, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      And working for a soul-crushing state agency with outdated ideas would probably make it less attractive, even if you do have a measly pension…

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    • dan August 18, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Depends whether we think people will get the PERS they’re entitled to. A buddy worked for the state for years and has gotten his PERS renegotiated in retirement – super unfair, he’s someone that could have made more in private industry but thought that PERS evened it up.

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  • wsbob August 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    The majority sentiment about bike and pedestrian safety, expressed by people commenting to bikeportland stories, and by this weblog’s owner-writer, seems to be that where safety in using the road by people biking and walking is lacking, it’s nearly all, or entirely due to people that drive, not driving safely.

    From the same perspective: that it’s an unreasonable imposition upon people biking and walking, also referred to as vulnerable road users…to use more than the most modest precaution in using the road in traffic situations where motor vehicles are in use.

    This being the case, it seems likely, that the kind of approach to bike and pedestrian safety many people reading this weblog would expect from someone they might encourage to try get the ODOT bike and pedestrian safety program job, would be one that’s mainly devoted to actions towards people driving, rather than to people walking and biking, and traveling by other active modes of transportation.

    Aside from all I’ve just described about what I believe may be the response from a bunch of people reading this weblog…the job sounds like one that could have interesting, good potential for increasing road use safety for everyone using the road. A heightened awareness on the part of everyone using the road, especially by those road users whose skills and abilities in safely using the road are most lacking, could be very beneficial to the safety of vulnerable road users.

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    • Paul Atkinson August 17, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      I don’t think you’ve been reading the same stories, comments, and editorials I’ve been reading if that’s the message you take away.

      The site I keep reading could be summarized as something closer to:
      * Hold people responsible for their actions when, by breaking the law, they injure others
      * Do not hold victims responsible for imagined “responsibilities” above and beyond what the law requires
      * Driver behavior is strongly influenced by driver-centric infrastructure design that does not work for other road users

      The person filling this position at ODOT could have a great impact if she or he can
      * help to create a consistent, safe infrastructure culture that works for all road users
      * encourage a cultural shift to hold those who cause injury responsible without prejudice
      * reduce or eliminate the culture of victim-blaming in public institutions and the press

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      • wsbob August 18, 2017 at 12:10 am

        You didn’t say what site you’re reading. Which is it? Doesn’t sound like you’re reading bikeportland. On the other hand, if it is bikeportland you’re referring to, this part of your comment:

        “…The site I keep reading could be summarized as something closer to:
        * Hold people responsible for their actions when, by breaking the law, they injure others
        * Do not hold victims responsible for imagined “responsibilities” above and beyond what the law requires
        * Driver behavior is strongly influenced by driver-centric infrastructure design that does not work for other road users …” paul atkinson

        Sounds like spin…the usual for the majority I referred to in my original comment…effort to alleviate any and it seems, all responsibility on the part of vulnerable road users, to look out for their own safety in using the road.

        That spin effort is going nowhere. It’s little more than expression of self righteous indignation that I suppose some people reading bikeportland, crave, and feel this weblog provides them a safe harbor for. Not too many people seem to be willing to speak up and have them come to grips with reality, which is that vulnerable road users need to join in with people that drive, most of whom have long made looking out for the safety of vulnerable road users a basic part of their use of the road as they operate motor vehicles.

        As a companion to your three points listed in your comment I’ve excerpted, how about:

        Heighten emphasis made to people using the road as vulnerable road users, that they must use the road with…due care…relative to the unique circumstances and conditions of each road and traffic situation they have occasion to pass though in their use of the road.

        Help people using the road as vulnerable road users, recognize that safe use of the road by vulnerable road users where motor vehicles are in use, relies in no small part on vulnerable road users’ own efforts to use the road in ways that will help their travel on the road be safe.

        Help all road users, specific to the range in modes of travel in which people use the road, understand the reality and challenges in safely using the road, much of which, by the necessity of meeting everyone’s daily travel needs, must be prioritized to use of the road with motor vehicles…given that at least for the present, some 80 percent or more, travel the road by motor vehicle.

        Hope for changes in road design that will afford better conditions for walking and biking. Work to accelerate the pace at which those changes are introduced into road configurations. Until those changes are wider implemented than they are at present in the U.S. : Work to help people using the road as vulnerable road users, do a better job of looking out for their own safety in the traffic conditions existing today, now.

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        • Justin M August 18, 2017 at 2:59 pm

          OMG, Are you Bob Gunderson, of Twitter fame? So glad to see you here! Huge fan.

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    • Chris I August 17, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      Can you point to a few local pedestrian fatalities that were caused by a lack of awareness on behalf of the victim? Have you contacted their families to make sure they know this?

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      • wsbob August 18, 2017 at 12:25 am

        Chris…do you think your comment, suggesting speculation about the causes of collisions involving vulnerable road users which may have included some degree of lack of awareness on the part of the person using the road as a vulnerable road user, and in which the person was fatally injured, is funny? It sounds as though you think so. At best, for you to make such a suggestion is irreverent, bordering on disrespectful to the person having passed, and to their family and friends.

        The time to defend against close calls and collisions involving road users, to speculate on scenarios that can contribute to and cause collisions, and to explore and reccommend safe road use procedures for all road users…including people using the road as vulnerable road users…is before people become involved in those kinds of road incidents.

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        • Chris I August 19, 2017 at 3:34 pm

          My comment is disrespectful, but only towards one person in particular.

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    • bikeninja August 17, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      I have a good compromise. Lets step up enforcement so that we have 98% compliance with the rules of the road by those who have chosen to abide by them by getting an official license. Then, if there are still significant problems with vulnerable road user injuries we can work on teaching walkers and cyclists that cars are dangerous.

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      • wsbob August 18, 2017 at 12:15 am

        “I have a good compromise. …” bikeninja

        Your suggestion doesn’t sound like a good compromise. It doesn’t even sound like a plain old compromise. It sounds like an attempt to counter any encouragement to people using the road as vulnerable road users, to take some responsibility to use due care in their use of the road.

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  • Kyle Banerjee August 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Whoever does this won’t be doing it for the pay even if state gigs are very stable — what they’re asking a single person to do is a very tall order. Also, the state atmosphere is also not for everyone.

    That the job requires driving (probably a lot of driving) should not be thought of as a minus. This person will have to meet people in all kinds of places, many of which will be marginally served or unserved by alternatives. Besides, being behind a steering wheel makes it easier to imagine what would make alternatives seem viable.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Kyle,

      To be clear: I mentioned the driving requirement just as a heads up. I don’t think it’s a “minus”. Thanks.

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    • paikiala August 17, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      The person at HQ will need to be able to get to any corner of the State.

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  • Steve August 17, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Way too little pay to attract anyone that will meet those qualifications. Likely to be stuck with least worst option or long term vacancy.

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  • Buzz August 17, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Sorry, but that is not a manager’s salary, and you should correct the title of this article.

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    • Racer X August 17, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Buzz, I agree with your statement and Jonathan’s concerns, as I review a lot of transportation job postings nationwide.

      This position seems to have all the occupational responsibilities but without the institutional status (or even union protection that many lower level positions have plus overtime). The $41k minimum is a ‘bar tender’ hourly wage + tips rate and not renumeration for someone with the in-the trenches experience to make things happen in the Transportation Planning/ Engineering sector…

      …unless the position is reclassified ($60k to $85k)…then the best ODOT can hope for is either an experienced retiree seeking health benefits (etc.) or a fresh out of school planner type who will not have the institutional kungfu to make big things happen (or will leave soon once a higher paying job opens [internally]).

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      • mh August 17, 2017 at 3:33 pm

        I’m hoping for an experienced retiree, but they’d have to have retired (or term limited) from the City of Portland or Metro, and been ahead of their time in terms of active transportation. Anyone want to get back into the ring?

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        • Buzz August 17, 2017 at 5:25 pm

          That might describe Rex Burkholder, but I highly doubt that he would be interested…

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      • Stephen Keller August 17, 2017 at 9:21 pm

        The position level is Program Analyst 1. Assuming the State of Oregon policies haven’t changed, this is an (very) entry-level management position. I walked away from interviews for such a role (in a different state office) some 20 years ago because I wan’t quite desperate enough to take the 2x pay cut at that time. For me, circumstances have proven that to be a wise choice, but the good news about that position level is there is significant room for advancement if you can navigate the political waters.

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      • wsbob August 18, 2017 at 12:50 am

        “…The $41k minimum is a …” racer x

        I’m sure you’re not referring to that salary level as ‘chump change’. Or are you? No disrespect intended towards bartenders. No wonder the cost of living is exploding. And that a willingness to believe in ideals and pursuit of honorable causes in exchange for some personal sacrifice, seems to be steadily declining.

        Where can a person that believes in something better for biking, walking and better community livability, do more? Behind an apron in a bar-room, or in this bike and walk safety job, helping people figure out how to create the community conditions people want and need in order to have better lives? That ought to be worth something, even if it happens to require taking a little more modest standard of living that they might aspire to.

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        • Alex Reedin August 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm

          Oh, please. A truly good candidate for this position’s highest other offer is not $40k for bartending. It’s $100K for program management at a private sector job.

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  • Andrew Kreps August 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I do hope they take the axe to the Stay Safe Be Seen program. Even wearing head-to-toe retro reflective clothing did not keep me safe in marked crosswalks.

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    • emerson August 17, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Yeah, no kidding. They really need a strong “Don’t run people over” campaign.

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      • Slow Down August 18, 2017 at 1:53 am

        Yup. Or how about a “slow the fu#% down!” campaign. Or a hey, “When You Can’t See As Far, It’s Dark, Don’t Go As Fast”, it could feature blindfolded people running into trees, etc. Or how about the enforcement of nighttime speed limits, or testing drivers for night vision, or inspecting car headlights, etc.

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        • bendite August 18, 2017 at 7:38 am

          Some good ideas here. You two should apply.

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        • paikiala August 18, 2017 at 7:59 am

          What exactly are ‘night time speed limits’?

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        • Dave August 18, 2017 at 9:55 am

          Yes! Why do people and organizations on the right side of an idea have to be the ones who are so timid, mild, and afraid of giving offense when expressing their ideas, oh why?

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          • Adam
            Adam August 18, 2017 at 11:38 am

            IMO, the left is so worried about offending anyone that it often hurts their message. In trying to build a consensus and play nice with all sides, the overall goal is often lost. Portland government agencies and organizations are especially guilty of this. This is why we ultimately end up with tiny incremental change that doesn’t really change much.

            It’s time that we admit that it simply is not possible create real positive change without offending a few people. Our goal should be to try to convince others why we are right, not simply kowtowing to their offence. This is why I love organizations like PTU – they have a very defined goal and aren’t afraid to offend a few people in the name of progress.

            Consensus-building is important, especially when trying to organize different groups of people under a single goal, but we must learn when to draw the line between valid points that provide insights into another group’s perspective, and those who simply oppose because they “don’t like it” or stand to lose money/privilege/power/etc. Portland often does far more of the latter than the former, and that’s a huge problem we need to resolve.

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  • Racer X August 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    PS. [I hope I am wrong] The conspiracy loving Texan in me, thinks that ODOT may have purposely set this salary so low (in this hot hiring market) to make it “fail”…either for the position to stay open unfilled or to keep the applicant pool at an “apprentice” level and thus not be a threat to its “business as usual”…thus what we may be seeing is an internal tug of war at the State level: a political power saying that ODOT should have this position (and outcomes) and yet another force at ODOT (etc) undermines this with the low ball salary. Time will tell…

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 17, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      I doubt that sort of sabotage is at play.

      I worked for the state for 5 years and wouldn’t consider returning unless I was starving. Even then, I’m not sure I would. Managers get the worst deal of all, at least where I worked. The union often succeeds in securing small raises which are obligatory to pay (along with cost increases for benefits) and which strain budgets that are flat or fall which leave nothing left for managers who see raises last so the pay doesn’t keep up with inflation.

      The stereotype of a state employee in the eye of the public contributes to policies that can seem outright punitive and this extends to budgeting and salaries. The type of people that will work under such conditions tend to be desperate people who take whatever they can get temporarily and the dregs who stay forever because no one else would want them. Over time, the effect is to separate the wheat from the chaff and chuck the wheat so dysfunction reigns.

      On the plus side, my personal opinion of ODOT at the time was that it was one of the better agencies and my interactions with them were better than with other agencies. So if someone here wants to go for it, I’d encourage them.

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      • bendite August 18, 2017 at 7:39 am

        Don’t know what department you were in, but it sounded bad. I don’t know if what you’re saying applies to ODOT.

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      • Buzz August 18, 2017 at 10:07 am

        Gee, anti-union a bit?

        Any class-comp study done by public agencies always values management skills much higher than staff technical skills, with resulting salary scales skewed towards management.

        Cost of living adjustments written into union contracts are typically indexed to the CPI, are small, and almost never keep up with actual inflationary trends, especially in the Portland metro area where the cost of living is currently rising exponentially; and they certainly don’t break public agencies budgets, which account for annual COLA increases (which management gets too, by the way). Besides, the state has had salary freezes in place for many years over the last decade, and has also been using Friday furloughs to keep wages down. As a result, employee morale is often quite low and these jobs, especially entry-level lower management positions like this, really don’t offer much future and I would recommend the opposite – stay far, far away from this ‘opportunity’.

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  • K'Tesh August 18, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Damn… I’m in China right now, with no ETA on a return.

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    • Todd Boulanger August 18, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Well still submit your application and take your chances…if they like you enough they will offer a Skype interview (at least for the first cut)…then go from there and negotiate start date or transport, etc.

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    • B. Carfree August 18, 2017 at 6:26 pm

      You would be oh so perfect for this job. I wonder if “ODOT Knows”?

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  • Rebecca August 18, 2017 at 8:28 am

    “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth August 18, 2017 at 8:56 am

    If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. That’s true at every level of payroll. My expectation is that you will either get an incompetent, or a political hack with a trust fund.

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  • JJJ August 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

    That’s very, very low.

    The same position in New Jersey, for statewide Safe Routes to School and Bike/Ped Safety Coordinator, gets paid around $90,000

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  • Dave August 18, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I hope that the only applicants that meet the spec are a bunch of non car owning, transit using anti-motoring zealots and are on the job for decades.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    As per the ODoT job description requiring ONLY the ability to operate a motor vehicle and be licensed as such, the State of Oregon (HR) may want to update this requirement to reflect its statewide mobility goals. Some NW agencies do not have this requirement, while others like King County (its a big rural and urban county) have this balanced mobility requirement of late:

    “This [transportation planning position] requires a valid driver’s license and ability to drive county motor pool vehicles when transit is not available or alternate means to get to respective locations expeditiously.”

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    • Buzz August 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      good luck with that…

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  • Name Here October 27, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Any update on this position? It looks to have been filled. Any way to know who was hired?

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