Paula Brookshire has a big job ahead of her.
As the principal transportation engineer for the city of Springfield, she’s responsible for the team choosing some $30 million in capital improvement projects to go before voters in 2019. She’s been here before, though.
Brookshire was instrumental in selecting the transportation projects when voters in 2016 approved both a capital improvement sales tax and a transportation sales tax. The quarter-cent capital improvements tax renewal is slated for the April 2019 ballot.
“The projects we create today will have an impact on the way Springfield looks and functions for many years to come,” Brookshire says of her team’s consideration of public input, infrastructure conditions and public safety. “I am currently leading our team in making project choices that will go to the voters.”
Brookshire brings 20 years of engineering experience to the task. She worked in the private sector upon earning a civil engineering degree from Missouri University of Science & Technology and until joining the city in 2010. Her longest stints were as a project manager for Great River Engineering and Scott Consulting Engineers.
In the Springfield Public Works Department, Brookshire holds the title for two firsts: the city’s first female professional engineer and the first female in an engineering leadership role, when she was promoted to principal engineer over the transportation division.
“While more females enter the engineering field each year, it is still a career path that is dominated by men,” she says. “I am very proud to be breaking those barriers and making it easier for other ladies to see leadership in the engineering field as part of their future.”
She’s seen the fruit of that labor in that one of the project managers she supervises recently became the city’s second female professional engineer: Leree Reese earned her PE license in January, Brookshire says.
Next up for Brookshire and team is addressing the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. The 1902-built structure on Commercial Street is in line for a $2.5 million rehabilitation, and the Transportation Engineering Division is central to the job.
“The business owners on Commercial Street are passionate about the bridge, its history and the way it draws tourists to this business district,” Brookshire says. “Taking on a project that conjures up so much emotion from the public requires me to step out of my comfort zone.”
Her goal: Leave a positive impact on business and historic preservation.
Mixing her professional passions and community interests, Brookshire was 2017 president of the Ozarks Chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and served on the board of the North Springfield Betterment Association, 2014-17. She also is a member of the Public Entities Diversity Initiative, a citywide program.
“The group works to improve our practices in hiring a diverse workforce as well as encouraging minority- and woman-owned businesses to compete and be considered for public contracts,” Brookshire says. “As the mother of a child adopted from Ethiopia, I have become more personally aware of the challenges that minorities face in our country and within our local community.”
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.