April 10, 2014

Originally produced and aired on WGMB FOX44 News.

BATON ROUGE, LA (FOX44) — There's a new chief engineer at the Department of Transportation and Development, and she's making history.

Our bridges, our roads, and our stoplights are just a few of the things that depend on engineers. For Janice Williams, it's a career she has always wanted.

"My dad was actually a civil engineering professor at LSU," Williams said. "My parents raised me to believe, you can do anything you want to. They never said 'you can't do that because you're a girl.'"

Williams' engineering journey began more than 30 years ago, right here at DOTD.

"They called me the day after graduation and wanted to know if I was interested in a job, and I said 'well surely!'" Williams explained.

She has been with the department ever since, working on more than a thousand projects. The LSU graduate has worked multiple positions, and now, she is taking on a new role.

"The challenge of leading this group is such an honor and a privilege," Williams said.

As Chief Engineer, she has a new title, a new office and new responsibilities.

"Do we put a stoplight there or do we not put a stoplight there? There's going to be conflicting views," Williams said. "It will be my ultimate decision in a lot of cases, and say this is what the department is going to do."

Williams is the first woman to fill this position, but she does not want to be remembered for just that.

"Well what I like for it it mean is that it doesn't matter that I'm a woman, that I'm just a good engineer," Williams said.

That is what she wants her daughters to believe.

"I've even got one who's a civil engineering student at LSU, and my other one's a graduate student as LSU. So we're excited about that," Williams said.

With her new position, Williams hopes to be an example for others and inspire future engineers.

"I want to be able to set the example for leadership as we continue on. So that the people that come after me can carry on in the same way and do an even better job than I hope that I'm going to do," Williams said.

Part of Williams' job will be to oversee more than 500 engineers, technicians, and support staff.

Williams is replacing Richard Savoie, who retired last month after more than 30 years with the department.

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