In 2012, Mr. Ben Watts was inducted into the FPTA Hall of Fame. Mr. Watts, a Florida native, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served for five years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with tours in Germany and South Korea. In 1974, he joined the Florida Department of Transportation, where he held increasingly responsible positions in maintenance, design, and production management. In 1984, he became a deputy engineer in District Five, and in 1987 he became District Five Secretary. In early 1989, he was named Assistant Secretary of Operations of DOT’s seven districts and Florida’s Turnpike and later that year was appointed Secretary of Transportation by Governor Bob Martinez (R). Mr Watts helped restore confidence and trust in FDOT which had experienced significant financial and work program management difficulties prior to his appointment. Based on the exceptional professionalism he instilled in the agency, he was retained as Secretary of DOT in 1991 by Governor Lawton Chiles (D) and served as Secretary until 1997.
While serving as Secretary, Ben Watts created and fostered a culture of multimodalism at the Florida DOT, an initiative Mr. Watts carried from District Five. Mr. Watts was the DOT Secretary at the time of the creation of the Florida Block Grant program and was the champion of adding the provision to Florida Law that a minimum of 15% of the State Transportation Trust Fund be allocated to Public Transportation programs that include Transit, Rail, Seaports, Aviation and Intermodal projects. As Secretary, Mr. Watts oversaw the early development of Florida’s High Speed Rail efforts and provided support to Tri-Rail in its initial operational life. He filled key positions at FDOT with people he knew would be advocates of public transportation. Mr. Watts’ tenure at Florida DOT changed the culture of the agency to support public transportation as an important component of the State transportation system. Lastly, in 1997, FDOT was awarded by APTA the Government Agency Transit Achievement Award, which was APTA’s highest award for a non-transit agency.
Mr. Watts later served as President and CEO of Carter and Burgess, before retiring in 2008. Mr. Watts now lives in DeFuniak Springs with his wife, Gardis. He is an avid golfer and student of Abraham Lincoln.
It is for Ben Watts’ long time commitment and support of public transportation as a significant element of multimodal transportation systems that we welcome former Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ben Watts to the FPTA Hall of Fame class of 2012.