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Walker Headlights: Sue Thompson

Sue Thompson, Parking Consultant II, joined our Los Angeles office and Consulting Resource Group (CRG) earlier this year after serving as the Associate Director of Transportation and Parking for the Oregon Health and Science University. Previous to that, she worked in parking for over 20 years at the Portland International Airport (PDX). She is currently working towards CAPP certification through the International Parking Institute. Sue loves to cook, travel, and spend time with her family and dogs. She is smart, bubbly, and full of parking expertise! Get to know her better in this month’s Walker Headlights.

Q: How did you get started in the parking/transportation industry?

A: I started as a cashier at PDX, just for the Thanksgiving holiday season. I was attending college and just wanted to make a little extra money. When the holidays were over, they asked me to stay on. It was the perfect job as I worked at the Economy parking lot, night shift, and I was able to get a lot of studying done! I was majoring in Accounting and Business and when the auditor for the company was leaving for another position, he recommended me to replace him. From there, I just worked my way up through every position, learning everything that I could, until I finally became General Manager. Parking is the perfect industry to learn a huge breadth of knowledge – not only did I learn parking, ground transportation, special events, shuttles, valet – but I also basically ran my own business so I learned everything there is to know about HR, budgeting, employee relations – you name it. I would not trade the experience I got for anything.

Q: What are some of the big lessons you learned as the Associate Director of Transportation and Parking for the Oregon Health and Science University?

A: At an academic medical center, there are so many diverse groups, with diverse needs. There is the hospital, the schools, the researchers, then there are the students, the nurses, the employees, the patients. You can’t just come up with one solution or look at one side or one group – you need to take everyone into consideration. The best thing you can do is reach out, listen, find out what people really want and need and what motivates them and build strong relationships. Once they know they can count on you, they will work with you on any challenges and they will support you when you really need it. The other big lesson for me is build a strong and diverse team – the group I worked with at OHSU was one of the best group of people I have ever worked with – we worked hard, we were all there to support the mission and each other, and we were a team always, first and foremost. Lastly, that running a parking program at an academic medical center is about as far opposite as you can get from running a parking program at an airport!

Q: Tell us more about working at the Portland International Airport (PDX). Any interesting stories from your time there?

A: I was working at PDX when 9/11 happened. It was a very uncertain and strange time to be at an airport. I remember the airport being completely empty except for armed military personnel and wondering how were we ever going to recover from something like this. But we did, and I was able to see that recovery as people started traveling again and our faith and hope was restored. It was quite impactful.

Q: Any secret tips for parking at PDX or other airports?

A: I hate to park at airports – I like to get dropped off at the curb!

Q: When you travel, are you analyzing the parking situation everywhere you go?

A: Yes! My partner and I are both in the parking business, so it is quite comical as we analyze every aspect of every parking operation we encounter. People that are not in the business just don’t understand…..

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your new role as a parking consultant at Walker?

A: I love to help people and I love parking, so this is the perfect fit. I really enjoy working with our clients and finding out what their challenges and needs are, then trying to figure out solutions for them. It is like putting together a puzzle.

Q: In your downtime, what do you like to do for fun?

A: I love to travel – whether it is just a day trip or a long weekend or a two-week trip to some great location. We are also big foodies, so trying new restaurants or cooking a great meal is always fun. I also really enjoy concerts and we try to see as many as we can every year – there is nothing like seeing someone live. Reading a great book or watching a good movie are also things I really enjoy.

Q: What would we find you doing on a typical Saturday night?

A: I am so boring! Saturday night is usually movie night in our house so we watch something we have been wanting to see – we have a big screen and very comfy furniture that all reclines, so we have elevated this to an art form!

Q: Tell us about your dogs – what kind, how many, how cute are they?

A: Yes, my four-legged children! We have two dogs – Willow is 5 and is a border collie/Australian Shepard mix ; Nala is 2 and is a Bernese Mountain dog. They are both wonderful and spoiled beyond belief! They are adorable! The house we are renting has a pool so they are learning how to swim in the new pool.

Q: Tell us about your family – what kind, how many, how cute are they?

A: My partner Dean and I have been together for 12 years. Dean has three wonderful girls – all teenagers – Meghan lives with us and the other girls visit often. I have known them all their life and we are all very close, they are my family.

Q: What’s the most exciting part of being in parking consulting?

A: I have wanted to be a consultant for a long time so working with Walker is a goal I have now achieved which is exciting. Working with and helping people, and finding a solution that they love and are excited about, is what I think is the best part.

Q: What trends do you see in the parking industry?

A: There are so many. What I am hearing from my clients is they want more automation, better revenue control, and better ways to do the things they are doing now. I think License Plate Recognition is becoming more widely used and the accuracy is improving and I think there are so many great and varied applications for it. I am very interested in the future of gateless facilities and will be interested to see what comes of that. One thing that I think is exciting is how well different vendors are working together to ensure that they can integrate with so many different equipment, systems and vendors – such as a PARC’s company being able to integrate with a multi-space meter that integrates with a License Plate Recognition system. It was not that long ago that something like that was unheard of.

Q: If you weren’t working in parking, what do you think you’d be doing?

A: That is a hard one- I originally thought I would be an accountant, though I could not see myself doing that now. I like to help people, and I especially like customer service, so maybe something related to that. I just really don’t know – I have been in parking since I was 19 so I can’t imagine anything else.

Q: Now that you’ve been in Los Angeles for a few months, what do you think of Southern California?

A: Ah, the best part is definitely the weather! You just can’t beat it. Having lived in Oregon, I can’t tell you how nice it is to wake up (almost) every day to sun and even when it does rain, it is for about 3 minutes instead of 3 weeks! I actually have spent a lot of time in SoCal as my mom lives in Palm Springs and my brother lived in LA and the surrounding area for many years and now lives in Palm Springs. I have always really loved the area and am glad that we relocated here.

Thank you, Sue!

If you’d like help with a parking situation or would like to say welcome to Walker, you can reach Sue HERE.

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