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The state transportation department's top engineer has retired after a career with the agency spanning almost three decades.

Ronnie Keeter's last day as the department's chief engineer was Tuesday. 

He primarily oversaw the engineering and program activities of the agency's 14 highway divisions. He also directed the agency's Mobility and Safety Division, the Central Units and the Technical Services Division. 

Keeter became the chief engineer in 2020, after he was promoted in 2019 to be the eastern deputy chief engineer, who oversees the department's seven eastern highway divisions. 

“It has been quite an honor to serve as the chief engineer and manage all of our highway divisions, which strive to build and maintain roads and bridges in a safe and efficient manner," Keeter said. “I'm glad I can leave behind a talented and dedicated workforce that will continue to serve the public."

Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette recently appointed Chris Peoples to succeed Keeter. Peoples had been the department's deputy chief engineer for several years before taking the reins as chief engineer.

“Ronnie has been one of our stalwart engineers at the department, and he has always been willing and able to step into bigger roles that have moved our agency forward amid some challenging times," Boyette said. “We are fortunate to have a strong team in our leadership to carry out our mission."

Keeter, who lives in Littleton in Halifax County with his wife and two children, started working for the department in January 1993, soon after he graduated in 1992 from UNC-Charlotte with a civil engineering degree.

He rose quickly through the ranks. He has been an assistant district engineer, a district engineer, a county maintenance engineer, a division maintenance engineer and, eventually in 2018, the head engineer for Highway Division 4.

Division 4 division has more than 400 employees and maintains more than 13,000 miles of roadway in Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson counties.

The main functions of a highway division include developing transportation projects, building them and maintaining them after they are completed. The divisions also oversee traffic-related services, reopen and repair roads damaged by storms and maintain the roadsides by mowing and litter collection.