At Newark Airport, Building from the Ground Up

By Abigail Goldring, Media Relations Staff

If you asked Vicky Dugan 30 years ago what she thought she’d be doing today, working on a Newark Liberty International Airport paving crew probably would not have been the answer.

Dugan is the only woman on the Port Authority’s paving team, which last night put the finishing touches on one of the most extensive paving jobs in the airport’s history. For three 12-hour overnight shifts in a row, Dugan and her fellow team members restored the busy roadway in front of Terminal B as part of Operation Smooth Ride, a two-year effort to make improvements that enhance travelers’ experiences from the minute they enter the airport.

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Dugan says that the people she works with make the job especially enjoyable. As the only woman on the paving team, she has become a trusted and caring colleague. “I want everyone to feel comfortable and know that they can come to me for anything,” she said.

Her first job out of high school didn’t suggest that she would become a highly respected member of the airport’s Structural Maintenance group. She was a clerical aide on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center. By day, she kept track of toll collections. By night, she took classes to get a degree in accounting.

But two major events would shape the trajectory of her life. The first was the 1993 WTC bombing. After experiencing that traumatic event, she decided she couldn’t work at the Twin Towers location anymore. Second, she took a General Maintainer class offered by the Port Authority. Though busy with both work and school, she was determined to pass the class, because she had a longtime passion for repairing things

“I never doubted my ability to keep going,” she said. “And if it wasn’t for that class, I wouldn’t be in maintenance today.”

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Dugan is in her 13th year on the paving crew. When she’s not on the airport roads, Dugan can be found anywhere from the runways to parking garages to taxiways, sealing cracks or filling holes to preserve the integrity of the many essential surfaces across the airport.

“Vicky’s a major asset to this team,” said Ronny Smith, Maintenance Group Supervisor and head of Newark Airport’s paving group. “She’s always ready to help out, whether that’s with me in the shop on the clerical side, or out in the field at any hour of any day.”

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Sealing cracks in the pavement on a taxiway

Since the death of her husband several years ago, she says she has become more self-sufficient, motivated to learn new skills and support her own maintenance needs such as taking care of her home by herself and helping friends and family when they need it.

Most recently, she repaired her mother’s car and closed her father’s pool for the year. “The guys at work were shocked I was able to do that. They said that most of the men they knew wouldn’t be able to do that!” Dugan said. “It makes me feel good that I can figure out how to fix things, and it’s rewarding when I do it.”

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