I Was A Line Item In The AK State Budget

He will give his angels charge over you …

It was around the winter of ’91-’92. I was headed into Anchorage. The Seward Highway was like an ice rink. As I approached 15th Avenue I spotted a car lose control in the far right lane. The vehicle changed direction 90 degrees, now headed directly perpendicular to the 4-lanes of traffic. I made a split-second decision that I could accelerate to beat the vehicle before getting hit. We were 2 vectors converging. A vector has direction & magnitude. I moved as far to the left as possible, at the same time attempting to increase my magnitude by gently accelerating without spinning out. I held my breath as the car loomed into my peripheral vision. I thought Yes- I made it! Then BAM!!! It hit my rear bumper, launching me into a high-speed spin. I was headed diagonally through one of the busiest intersections in Anchorage in a fast-spin near 40 miles per hour, & closing on the corner gas station. The gas pumps & a vehicle were rapidly coming into view. I visualized a violent collision, with exploding flames.

Suddenly I stopped. I had not heard the crunch of metal nor did I see any flames. I was directly next to a car at the pumps. I opened my window to view. The 2 vehicles were directly parallel to each other, under 1-inch separation. I managed to pull away from the vehicle, whereupon the other driver walked up & down his vehicle looking for damage. I also got out to look for damage. Engineers study forces, including friction forces. There is no friction force on earth that would have stopped my vehicle. This was a supernatural event- an unseen force had stopped my vehicle right before impact. I thanked God for saving me.

I would soon witness more of God’s protection in a series of job-related events. I was a civil/environmental engineer for the state of Alaska, working in western Alaska to upgrade water/sewer infrastructure. I had designed a large boardwalk in a native community. The boardwalk used helical piers to support bridge sections. A Department of Transportation (DOT) engineer told me that it was the longest bridge in that area of western Alaska; DOT adopted it as the state standard design. It was featured in a national engineering publication.

I bumped into Governor Tony Knowles in the airport & showed him my engineering article-he was enthused to see the progress. He directed the commissioner to extend “kudos” to me for the work.  I was earning outstanding evaluations & feeling successful. Within weeks of receiving the praise, I was being attacked by my supervisors.

Along with the boardwalk design, I had designed a water/sewer haul system, utilizing the boardwalk to haul small water & sewer tanks. I designed a system at one-fourth the cost of an international firm’s competing system, using off-the-shelf American-made products. Instead of spending $40 thousand dollars per household, my system would cost $10 thousand dollars per household. A number of engineers & maintenance workers stated my system was best. I expected more praise, as I had received from the boardwalk work, but just the opposite occurred. My projects were suddenly scrutinized & I was told that my procurement did not meet requirements. I considered this a bogus charge, but was uncertain of the motivation behind it. The construction superintendent at the job site discovered a wiretap on the project phone- verified by the Alaska State Trooper Director.

I was then offered a top engineering job in another state department. I accepted the job & was thankful for the change. A boss in Juneau suddenly stopped my transfer to the new job- he had a coworker slide a memo under my garage-door alleging procurement violations. I was ordered to report on 4/24/98  to answer procurement improprieties. I will never forget the date- it was my son Hans’ 7th birthday & I missed the party. A friend in Juneau telephoned the day before the hearing to tell me that I was to be quizzed on procurement rules- with this tip I was able to handily answer all the screaming allegations during the intense interrogation.

In the face of this attack I fervently turned to the Psalms for help. Psalm 35 particularly seemed to fit my situation;

Oppose those who oppose me , Lord & fight those who fight against me!

I was put on administrative leave- I took the family to Hawaii for escape. The state was planning to transfer me to a position under a supervisor where I would be isolated. I sensed that this would be a set-up for future bogus charges. I was strongly praying for help. Right before flying home, I received a call from the CEO of a major private engineering firm in Anchorage. I had been “head-hunted” for years by private engineering firms. He was offering me a job.

Take your shield & armor & come to my rescue.

This call provided an escape. Instead of reporting back to the state, I gave my 2-weeks notice & accepted the job. I also asked the state union which represented me to file a grievance to get the top job back that had been offered to me.

After beginning my job for the private consulting firm I was told by the union that they could do nothing & my grievance would be dropped. I was stunned by the announcement & went to the gym for my lunch hour. I customarily lifted weights every day. While lifting weights this particular day I was complaining to the Lord that I was now giving up my promising state career. While bench-pressing, an individual who I had never seen before walked over & asked if he could give me a “spot on the bench press”. Doug looked down into my eyes & earnestly asked me what was wrong- he could read my shocked feelings. I slowly blurted out the story- how I lost a top job, for no good reason & now the union said my grievance was null & void. He quietly listened & then firmly stated that the union had violated my representation. I asked him how he could know this- He then stated that he was a labor attorney & he would accompany me that same day to meet the union representative. I asked him what it would cost & he said $100.

Lift up your spear & war ax against those who pursue me. Promise that you will save me.

As Doug introduced himself to the union representative, I watched the blood drain from her face. She became extremely agitated & screamed that she was off the case. She grabbed for the phone, calling her boss & stating that we were now headed to arbitration to get my promised job back. I requested that Doug be named as the attorney to represent me in the arbitration. I was told that Doug could not represent me, but that the union would appoint a private attorney.

Psalm 35 was coming true, verse by verse. I began to read ahead to see what would happen next.

The following Spring, near the anniversary of the interrogation the arbitration was to begin. I was told that if I wanted to file a follow-up lawsuit that a court reporter should be present to take all data down. I was scrambling to find a licensed court reporter. We knew a local court reporter- She said that she was totally booked up for months, but had just had a cancellation. The cancellation dates exactly coincided with my arbitration dates. I was contacted by several of my previous state coworkers. They told me that they had been directed not to talk to me or witness for me or their careers could be impacted. They refused to comply & boldly witnessed in my favor during the week-long arbitration. The morning of the 1st day arbitration, my wife at the time offered encouragement & leaned over to kiss me goodbye. Right before the departure kiss, a robin suddenly appeared between us hovering several seconds as the wing-tips caressed both our cheeks. This was the 1st of many miraculous bird encounters.

May those that try to kill me be defeated & disgraced!

The arbitration ended in my favor. But since I had taken the private consulting job instead of remaining with the state, I was told that the top position previously offered, was gone. My state retirement had been impacted & I was told that I had a valid lawsuit.

May those who plot against me be turned back & confused!

The source of all this personal woe began when I designed a new haul-system at one-fourth the cost of the international firm. My new design would result in the international firm losing millions of dollars in design & construction revenue. For this reason I filed a whistleblower lawsuit, also including retirement damages. After filing the lawsuit, the front tire lugs on my vehicles were repeatedly loosened; the window was shattered on a vehicle in my driveway.

Engineering companies were looking for ways to tap into the lucrative grant programs- millions of dollars to upgrade native village water & sewer infrastructure. I was hired to help the company get these lucrative jobs. I was now in the unenviable position of trying to “win” jobs from the office that I was suing for damages. My boss told me that he was behind me 100%. This turned into a no-win situation for me. I could not even win jobs that called for the boardwalk that I had personally designed. Although the head of engineering backed me up, this was not the case for upper-level management. I was on the receiving end of many glares & comments; rightly so. This elevated my stress levels to the extreme.

The Birds Of Desolation:

I am from a family of bird-watchers. My father Bill was an expert birder- he could identify all the birds from both sight & song. Deer-hunting stories were told in hunting camp at the end of the day in northern Minnesota, but Bill would excitedly recount all the bird episodes of the day.

During this time period of not being able to win jobs, I noticed some very unusual bird behavior. A squawking Steller’s Jay would perch on the corner of my roof, during periods of job selection. This pattern held for a number of days. I figured this had to be a sign & began thumbing through the bible looking for the meaning:

Psalm 102:7,  I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof

This had to be the meaning. There was another bird mentioned; “…like an owl in abandoned ruins…” One day while taking my usual neighborhood walk I spotted it, an owl in an old dead tree. Highly unusual to see during the day. I found that these birds are sometimes referred to as the birds of desolation. God was trying to tell me that I was in a period of desolation.

Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his wings; ….

During a particularly stressful day I returned home & staggered out on the deck. I had once again lost another job- one that I was expected to win. As I leaned my head back on the deck rail, a Steller’s Jay landed. It hopped along the rail in my direction, stopping directly behind my head. I felt the wings extend over my head- a tremendous feeling of relief overcame me. I saw my children peering through the window at the miraculous scene. The wings remained fully extended over my head for what seemed to be several minutes, until the bird flew away.

May they be like straw blown by the wind as the angel of the Lord pursues them!

Not long after this episode, I quit my job at the private consulting firm. I then opened my own business. I did this with trepidation because for many years I had been a professional musician & found it difficult to make much money in private business. I was soon to find that the money was much better in the engineering field.

I was called to the office of Judge Sen Tan on a Friday afternoon. Trial was scheduled to begin Monday morning & the state wanted to settle. The state was making offers & Judge Tan told me that I could take an offer or “roll the dice” in a trial. We reached a tentative settlement agreement.

During a daily walk with my black lab Lily I received a call from my attorney. The state had offered a 6-figure settlement to be matched by the union. My spirits soared, as my dog Lily approached with something dangling from her mouth. It was a neck chain with a crucifix. I had never seen her pick up anything besides a stick.

May their path be dark & slippery while the angel of the Lord strikes them down!

After winning the lawsuit, my former state office was downgraded, under the management of another department. The people that had attacked me were asked to retire early. My friend in Juneau called to tell me that the head boss locked himself in his office on his last day & would not come out for a going-away party.

God pulled me kicking & screaming out of my safe state job, into my best job ever. Every day is fun & I have not used an alarm clock in 20 years. What others meant for evil, God turned to good.

Then I will be glad because of the Lord; I will be happy because he saved me.

My state job career ended benignly, …I was a line item in the Alaska state budget.

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