The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Paula Hammond Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

December 4, 2013


Paula Jo Cavanaugh was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1956. A graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, Cavanaugh enrolled at Oregon State University in 1974 and began studies in OSU's civil engineering program. During her time at OSU, Cavanaugh was one of eight female undergraduates in a civil engineering class of about one-hundred and twenty total students. She completed her studies in Fall 1978, at which point she accepted a position as a field engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation. (WSDOT)

During her thirty-four year career at WSDOT, Paula held numerous positions of increasing responsibility. (During this time period, she also married Alan Hammond - himself a land surveyor - and raised three children.) While initially tasked with entry-level engineering tasks including surveying, road design and project management, Hammond eventually moved into the administrative ranks, managing regional design programs, planning community development activities and, later, overseeing budgets.

In 2001 Hammond was promoted to Chief of Staff to the state Secretary of Transportation. Six years later, in 2007, Governor Christine Gregoire appointed Hammond as Secretary of Transportation for the state of Washington. During her tenure in this position, Hammond was responsible for all aspects of WSDOT activities, regularly reporting to the governor and the state legislature while also serving as a public figure accessible to journalists and accountable to the citizens of Washington. As secretary, Hammond oversaw a budget of $1.3 billion and a complicated transportation infrastructure including 3,500 bridges and tunnels as well as twenty-nine ferries. Her accomplishments while in Olympia included advocating for clean transportation energies, developing a plan for reducing congestion in metropolitan areas and introducing a system of metrics for tracking progress within the agency.

Hammond stepped down from the secretary position and retired from WSDOT in 2013. By the time of her interview she had entered the private sector, working as Senior Vice President, National Transportation Market Leader for the Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering firm.