John Callow embraces new challenges in almost 50-year career

May 31, 2012

If you are looking at a large development in Loudoun County, Virginia, there is a good chance John Callow had a hand in it. John’s rich legacy of transportation planning and traffic engineering, which spans nearly five decades, includes an array of complex developments and mixed-use projects in Washington, DC’s Metro area and northern Virginia.

During his career, John has seen Loudoun County, Virginia grow from about 60,000 people to more than 300,000. Much of his work has been related to accommodating this growth, including traffic impact assessments, parking studies, master planning, and operation studies for infrastructure and transit facilities. John’s specialty, however, is his ability to facilitate access negotiations and mediation to ensure that the solutions to transportation and infrastructure problems are supported not only by agencies, but also by surrounding communities and other stakeholders.

A lot of my work is people relations as opposed to technical skills, so it can be challenging when there are changes in staff at the state and federal agencies we work with. You need to know the new people so you can get things done. The reward is that I help people achieve their goals, and when I do that I’m happy too.

John is also driven by a personal connection to the area; he was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Annandale, Virginia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics from George Washington University in 1964. While John was in college, he worked part time for the National Capital Transportation Agency (now the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), which was charged with planning DC’s Metro system.

After graduating, John joined Alan M. Voorhees and Associates where he continued to work on the Metro line and met fellow employee Wayne Kittelson. Wayne later established Kittelson & Associates, Inc., and John launched his own ventures. The Voorhees alums stayed in touch, though, and in 2010 Wayne asked John to join KAI and play a key role in opening an office in Reston, Virginia.

Starting the new office was exciting. It was one more new thing in my life, and I love to do new things. And we’ve been successful, so that shows you did what you were supposed to do.

John’s work is not without its challenges. The recession and accompanying housing meltdown means fewer young people are buying homes, forcing developers to build townhouses and apartments instead. The traffic and transit systems near those developments, as well as other infrastructure, must ensure efficient modes of travel and meet the needs of community members.

Probably the number one challenge, particularly with the development side of things, is dealing with the NIMBYs and the people who don’t want to build anything anywhere. You have to manage that and still get projects approved for your clients.

Despite the challenges—and maybe, to an extent, because of them—the finished product is more often than not a personal accomplishment as well as a professional one. John can survey these achievements as he drives the 45 miles home to his farm in Orlean, Virginia where he and his family raise horses, goats, alpacas, and chickens and produce a variety of natural goods for sale. At John’s Dream Keeper Farm awaits his favorite mode of transportation: a tractor.

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