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Keeping Nebraska Moving

In Focus
NAME:Vicki Kramer
COMPANY:Nebraska Department of Transportation
As Director of the state’s Department of Transportation, Vicki Kramer is using her experience in the military forces to help keep the traffic moving as quickly and safely as possible.

Nebraska transportation chief Vicki Kramer’s passion for public service began early in her career, when she worked for three United States Senators who were working to help the people of Nebraska. 

Those formative experiences set her on a course that, in 2023, led to her take over as Director of the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), the government agency responsible for over 16,000 kilometers of highways, an additional 144,000 kilometers of smaller roads, dozens of airports and 3,500 bridges.

“It was great to dive in, being four months pregnant; I was focused heavily on learning the industry and communicating the importance of transportation to stakeholders.”

“I spent just under 10 years working for the Senate, just learning about Nebraska’s needs and how you match policy to them to improve lives,” she says. “And I really fell in love with that. I ended up working in a variety of roles, mostly focused on military and veterans’ policy, but I found the world of transportation fascinating.”

Kramer then moved into a full-time military role as a Senior Policy Advisor for Nebraska’s adjunct general. There, she learned emergency management skills that became invaluable when she later specialized in roads and airport management.

“I was looking at how the state could pass policies that would take care of our service members and veterans,” she says. “After I’d been there for a year-and-a-half, I was four months pregnant with orders to deploy in less than a year.”

That was when the DOT reached out regarding an opportunity that would allow Kramer to apply her proven skills to a new area of policy.  

A Big Role

So keen was the DOT on securing her services that the roles were combined into one, making her head of both communications and policy.

“Previously, they hadn’t had a strong emphasis on policy; it was pretty reactive, but if you’ve been watching the transportation sector, the policy element has really evolved over the last 10 years.

“It was great to dive in, being four months pregnant; I was focused heavily on learning the industry and communicating the importance of transportation to stakeholders. 

She gave birth to her eldest on a Friday morning and was back taking meetings the following Thursday. 

“It was a hectic time managing both family and work while preparing to be deployed. Looking back, it was a big time of transitions,” she says.

“I had focused so much of my career on military and veterans’ affairs policy, but learning a new industry was exciting to me and I really felt as though we had an opportunity to positively impact the lives of Nebraskans through transportation.

“It was the biggest risk I ever took, coming into the transportation market. I’d very much built my career in military and veterans’ policy.

“I’d done my master’s program and MPA [Master of Public Administration] focused on government, so switching over was a roll of the dice. I felt like I was young enough in my career that I could always switch back if I needed to.”

Cathcart Rail
“The Nebraska Department of Transportation has been wonderful to work with on several economic development efforts on behalf of Cathcart Rail’s Cornhusker Railroad located in central Nebraska, facilitating track rehabilitation and construction, new rail shipper customers and more local jobs.” – Casey Cathcart, Chairman and CEO, Cathcart Rail


Kramer thrived in her new role at the DOT before her year-long deployment with the Nebraska Army National Guard Unit as a Captain. When she returned, her skills and knowledge shifted her role into that of a chief of staff, where she made sure the agency continued to earn plaudits for embracing new technologies that optimized customer experience and network efficiencies. 

One critical partnerships that began with her role at the DOT and continues today is with the telecommunications giant Allo Fiber, which provides communications to over a million people across 40 cities in Nebraska, Colorado and Arizona. 

Understanding the importance of partnerships, Kramer also nurtured deep ties with a range of major transportation operators to improve services. Among them was leading freight rail experts Cathcart Rail, founded just eight years ago and now employing nearly 1,000 people across 33 states, including three facilities in Nebraska. It has also grown to become the country’s largest railroad repair network.

Service Across Borders

But her partnerships weren’t restricted to the Cornhusker State. Her time in the military had helped her understand the importance of working with local and neighboring jurisdictions.

“That was very helpful for when I moved into transportation because, though each state is different in how it manages its transport assets, we all understand that drivers and passengers don’t always know when they’re crossing county, city or even state borders. They’re just traveling along that road and expect good service wherever they are.”

“The world of transportation is changing and public sector owners have a lot on their plates.”

In 2020, Kramer ventured into the private sector with Nebraska-based construction firm Kiewit. As with her start with the DOT, her role evolved, starting as an alternative delivery director before becoming the Chief of Staff for Infrastructure Markets and Strategy.

“It was a great opportunity for me to have a focus that was external to Nebraska. I worked primarily in the middle part of the country, looking at their transportation markets and how they interacted with business after the bipartisan infrastructure law had passed,” she says.

“The world of transportation is changing and public sector owners have a lot on their plates. The private sector has an abundance of knowledge, which owners can leverage to complete projects that will make a real difference in people’s lives.

“I wasn’t planning to come back to state government but the opportunity, at this time, with this Governor, was so great that I saw a way to build on the knowledge I’d gained from Kiewit to assist Nebraska.”

Moving Nebraska Forward

It was the then newly elected governor of Nebraska himself, Jim Pillen, who persuaded her that her talents and vision could spearhead the state’s transportation future. A future that would require cooperative work with locals and neighbors to accomplish big goals, whether addressing the latest winter storm that closed roadways or building literal bridges to connect communities across state borders. 

“It was clear that we could move transportation forward and I really wanted to be a part of that. And it’s been an honor to be back at the DOT. I’m a little over a year into the job and getting my feet wet again. I’m very much looking forward to the next few years,” Kramer says.

“For me, it’s always been about service. That’s something a lot of people say, and I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant when I made the choice to go into the public sector right after school.”

“Nebraska Department of Transport has been a very strong partner throughout the 30-plus all-fiber markets we have built across the state. Efficiency, reasonableness and safety combine for a great public private relationship. Years of experience and respect make the construction relationship professional. Additionally, we enjoy the opportunity to provide world-class fiber transport, internet and voice services.” – Brad Moline, President and CEO, ALLO


Kramer’s deep-rooted connection to her home state and her experiences growing up mean that her job takes on an added meaning.

“Coming from a small town in Nebraska, I’m just so used to helping neighbors and understanding their problems. And for me, public service is the same thing. I want to know what keeps people up at night and how I can help them,” she explains.

“It’s also about where were going. I’d helped set the DOT on a pathway and one of the reasons for coming back was to finish that.”

She also took on board some advice from one of her predecessors.

“Coming from a small town in Nebraska, I’m just so used to helping neighbors and understanding their problems. And for me, public service is the same thing.”

“I had a previous director say to me, ‘At some point you’ll look around and realize you’re the most qualified person in the room’. Now, I’m on the younger side of DOT directors, so there are always questions I ask of myself in terms of, ‘Am I the right person?’ and ‘Is there someone more experienced?’”

As she describes it: right team, right place, right time.

“The governor’s final comment to me when he asked me back was, ‘Either you’re in the chair or you’re not’. And I don’t know who would pass up the opportunity to lead 2,000 people toward delivering the very best transport services for Nebraska.”

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