First female maintenance foreman in the state set to retire

Photo of the first female foreman at ITD

Shannon Thornton will retire March 15 after about 28 years on the job in North Idaho. She is the only female maintenance foreman currently at ITD, and after HR reviewed records, she’s believed to be the only one in agency history.

She started as an hourly in the Sandpoint residency in 1994 and transitioned to maintenance in the Coeur d’Alene area within a few years. For nearly the last two decades, she has served as foreman in the Sandpoint area and then the Athol area.

“She always found a way to say ‘yes’ to anything that was asked of her,” said Dave Freeman, who works for her at the Athol shed. “And when she commits, she leads like nobody else does, but at the same time with a lot of heart and kindness.”

Freeman shared several stories and remarked on her ability to network and obtain resources for her crews. Through her leadership and relationships across the state she has initiated and overseen the construction of maintenance facilities all over the district.

D6 District Engineer Jason Minzghor served as the operations engineer while Thornton was in Sandpoint.

“She took on every challenge I gave her,” Minzghor said. “State Highway 200 was cleared of trees and brush through most of the corridor because she was so motivated. She did more in one summer clearing trees than prior foremen had in the past 20 years. I counted on Shannon to get things done.”

Her crew members and the larger emergency response community have relied on her expertise and leadership over the years. In an emergency, Thornton was the first to offer assistance wherever it was needed.

“She believed it was the right thing to do because it’s where we all live, and it’s our community too,” Freeman said.

When Thornton looks back on her career, her favorite memories are of projects that her crew was able to take on and accomplish, from ditching to restoring gabion baskets to replacing culverts.

“I have had the opportunity to work with people that are truly dedicated and are truly here to serve our customers,” Thornton said. “I have appreciated my time in maintenance and those people who have always been helpful.”

Last month she spoke to the Women in Transportation group at ITD and shared insights about serving as a woman in operations, as well as advice on servant leadership.

“Never forget as foreman you are there to get what the crew needs to accomplish their job as safely and efficiently as possible. The crew comes first,” Thornton said.