The 2011 Kathryn J.R. Swanson Public Service Award is presented to Marlene Klein Markison for her commitment to advancing effective highway safety programs across the country. Markison served as Associate Administrator for Regional Operations and Program Delivery (ROPD) at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2003 to 2010.
In her capacity as Associate Administrator, Markison administered NHTSA’s comprehensive and complex state highway safety grant and transfer programs – established under SAFETEA-LU – which last year totaled nearly $750 million for the states, District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Indian Nations and the U.S. territories. She also managed NHTSA’s 10 Regional Offices, which are responsible for delivery and implementation of the state and community highway safety programs in the field. She was highly respected by the Regional Administrators, who banded together to submit her nomination for this award.
As a member of NHTSA’s senior management team, she advised the Administrator and offered technical assistance to Congress on the development, review, implementation, and coordination of programs, policies, and procedures related to Regional operations, state grant programs and NHTSA traffic injury control programs.
During her tenure at NHTSA, Markison developed a close and trusting relationship with GHSA. In particular, she worked closely with GHSA to improve NHTSA’s Management Review and Special Management Review processes. Always willing to find a way for programs to be innovative while still within the intent of the legislation, Markison worked with states in a way that was both fair and reasonable, and she strived to ease the burden of federal regulations on states as much as possible.
Markison’s knowledge of the intricacies and elements of the many state grant programs was unmatched. At the GHSA Board meetings and elsewhere, the Association’s leadership often sought her counsel on programmatic questions. She was a steady presence in GHSA’s executive training programs, and Markison and the GHSA Executive Director often shared timely authorization and appropriation intelligence.
Markison joined NHTSA in July 1984 as a Senior Policy Analyst in NHTSA’s Office of Plans and Policy. Beginning in 1991, she served as the Chief of the Program Resources Staff, Office of Injury Control Operations and Resources. Her responsibilities there focused on the development and implementation of NHTSA’s highway safety grant and transfer programs.
Prior to NHTSA, Markison worked in the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation in various positions within the Office of Governmental Affairs, including Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Governmental Affairs and Director of the Office of Community Planning Assistance.
During her remarkable 40-year career, Markison worked hard to make things better. She was unflappable when facing adversity or a difficult situation and could always identify the essential issues and offer a path to an agreement. Her steady and calm presence assured a successful transition to more performance-based programs, including triennial management reviews, voluntary implementation of standardized highway safety plan performance measures, and an enduring partnership designed to improve the management and efficiencies in state highway safety offices nationwide.