OREM — He stood there, shielded from the blistering heat, surrounded by buddies on the paint crew he works on. Executive Director Carlos Braceras had come to pay him a visit, and deliver congratulations straight from the Governor of Utah himself. For Region Three’s Mike Sabey, though, he would have much rather been outside painting lines on a road.
Recently, Sabey completed 50 years on the job at the Utah Department of Transportation — a golden anniversary no employee at UDOT has ever achieved. It was for that reason that Braceras, Deputy Director Shane Marshall, Region Three director Terri Newell and others had come to celebrate: five decades working on Utah roads.
“This is phenomenal. I don’t even know what to say,” Sabey said as he was presented with his award.
A lot was happening back in 1965: the space race was at a fever pitch, and American soldiers were on the ground in Vietnam. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a brave march to Selma, Ala., which brought about the Voting Rights Act, while race riots ripped through Watts, Calif. Oh, and Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston in one round.
In 1965, Hillary Rodham was a senior in high school, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a 17-year-old kid named Lew Alcindor. Winston Churchill died, JK Rowling was born, and Lyndon Johnson became president.
While all this was going on, Mike Sabey was beginning a career at UDOT.
A Utah County native, Mike left his station attendant job at Premoco Gas Station in Lehi to come to UDOT. On May 17, 1965, he was hired as a Light Equipment Operator at Shed 17 in Lehi, where Sabey says he was a “highway weed whacker”. Since then, he’s performed jut about every task in Region Three. He spent 29 years working various jobs in Lehi, and then south to the Provo/Orem area, where he’s spent the last few years on the paint crew. Mike said he joined the paint crew in order to “try something different”, a motto he’s lived by his entire career.
Sabey’s peers say he is the first to give up personal priorities — whether it’s a vacation, a hunt, or even a doctor appointment — because he knows “my guys are counting on me.” He tends to rearrange his life to get a project finished, and is known throughout Region Three as someone who can fix just about anything.
Sabey said the key to his longevity was proper safety and a little bit of luck: in his time at the Department, Mike has never been in an accident caused by him.