Faces of 400: Q&A with Retired Toll Plaza Manager, Robert SmithPosted Nov 19, 2013 by Malika Reed Wilkins, Director, Marketing & Communications
Robert Smith began work at the GA 400 toll plaza on opening day in 1993, making him the first Toll Plaza Manager in Georgia history. He held that position for the next 18 years, gaining a unique perspective of life at the GA 400 tolls.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I started working on the GA 400 tolls as an Assistant Project Engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation. In 1993, once construction was complete, I was appointed Toll Plaza Manager – totally uncharted territory in the state of Georgia – and I stayed in that position for 18 years.
Q: What was it like to work at the tolls in the early days?
A: I loved it. We worked like one big family. There were only six of us and I was working 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week, just trying to get a process in place. It was trial and error. I wrote the first set of regulations for handling the money and guidelines for being friendly to customers. Our number one goal was just to get our customers through the tolls safely and happily.
Q: What were some of the most memorable moments in your time at the toll plaza?
A: It’s hard to say because every day was so different, but one in particular stands out: Late one night, in 1998, there was an attempted robbery at the toll booth. Not realizing we only had quarters on hand, the thieves pulled up to the toll window and demanded all the money in the register be dumped into a black garbage bag. The toll cashier on duty complied and the thieves tried to flee the scene. Just up the road, they wrecked their car and tried to run with the money. The quarters were so heavy they ripped the bag, spilling all over the roadway! The thieves were forced to leave the money and their car behind and we haven’t had an issue since.
Q: Overall, how would you describe your 18 years at the toll plaza?
A: It was always fun to me. No two days were the same, so I enjoyed going to work each day. If there’s anything I learned, it’s that traffic is always changing.