The Utah Legislature honored the state’s retiring transportation director Monday with a citation and a standing ovation during the morning session after John Njord’s 12 years of service that oversaw big highway construction projects as well as some controversies.
Njord smiled as senator after senator stood up to praise the Utah Department of Transportation boss — with Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, thanking Njord for having "saved the state billions" of dollars on highway and road contracts, including overseeing the widening of the Interstate 15 corridor in Utah County.
Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said UDOT officials usually were greeted by city and county officials with the look that "a homicide might be committed" but that Njord managed to leave those meetings "smelling like a rose."
"It was a really telling feature about your character," Okerlund said.
Njord was also honored in the Utah House with a round of applause.
Njord’s agency suffered under a few controversies in recent years, however, including one in which the department had to settle a $13 million lawsuit over a bungled highway contract bidding process for the I-15 corridor project in 2009.
The fallout included the firing of a worker who was alleged to have leaked the details of the $1.1 billion contract. But the Career Service Review Office in 2012 found that the employee was wrongly terminated.
Njord, a University of Utah graduate, was appointed to the position by Gov. Mike Leavitt in June 2001 and served under three other governors, including Gov. Gary Herbert.
Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.
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