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If not for a chance encounter with a video game, Micah Bray might be spending his days perfecting his bedside manner and preparing for a career in the medical field.
Instead, he has joined the City of Bristol, Tennessee as Transportation Engineer and now spends his time creating transportation plans for special events, collecting and analyzing traffic data for Bristol and surrounding areas, ensuring the City adheres to all federal transportation guidelines, and all things traffic related. The job allows him to work closely with members of various city departments - patrolling school zones with a police officer one day and planning street closures for an outdoor event with the Department of Parks & Recreation the next – all with the goal of enhancing the safe and orderly flow of traffic.
A native of Savannah, Ga., Micah grew up walking and biking along downtown streets, thanks in large part to his grandmother. She walked to work throughout her career, he said, and instilled in him a genuine appreciation for the experiences that are available in walkable communities. Sidewalks, crosswalks, tree-lined streets that provide shaded paths for pedestrians, and biking trails all intrigued him during the impressionable days of his youth.
Fast forward a few years. Micah had just completed a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry – planning to one day join his mother in the medical field – when he stumbled upon “City: Skylines,” a video game that allows players to develop entire cities, complete with buildings and infrastructure. The game reminded him how much he loved exploring his city during those childhood walks through Savannah. Because he was also struggling with the realization that medical school and a subsequent career as a doctor would leave him with little free time, he decided to make a change.
“I was playing this video game in my spare time and enjoying it so much that I thought maybe it was something I could do as a profession,” he said.
He enrolled in a dual master’s program at Georgia Tech, earning degrees in City Planning and Civil Engineering, becoming a “plangineer” with a focus on transportation. While he was completing his degree, his parents moved to Johnson City, where his mother accepted a job as a physician at an area hospital. Micah helped them move into their new home, then remained with them in lock down during much of the COVID pandemic. He began seeing someone and, as the relationship became more serious, began looking for a job in the area.
When long-time Transportation Planning Engineer David Metzger retired after nearly 40 years on the job, Micah was hired.
“Everything just kind of fell into place,” he said.
In addition to becoming familiar with his job duties – thanks to Mr. Metzger and current city employees who have worked closely with him in recent months – Micah is becoming familiar with the region. He has been on a number of hikes, he said, and looks forward to scoping out some of the area’s scenic bike trails soon. He’s enjoying the urban feel of the area, with its abundant shops and restaurants, and the breathtakingly beautiful rural areas that are just minutes away.
He still finds time for video games, noting that he recently purchased a PS5 console. It’s an interest he inherited from his parents, he explained, noting that they met while playing Super Mario Brothers back in the day. Some of the games he currently enjoys include “Jurassic World Evolution 2,” “Horizon Forbidden West,” and the Pokémon games he grew up with. He also enjoys playing board games, listing “Wingspan” as one of his favorites.
After just three months on the job, his office within the Ewell Easley Municipal Annex is filled with long lists of pending projects that need attention. Entire days can be spent at his computer, drafting plans and analyzing data for reports that must be emailed to a coworker or uploaded to a state or federal agency. Some days, however, when the skies are clear, he can be found on City streets, wearing a safety vest and a large brimmed hat that bears the city logo, using various traffic devices to gather data. He enjoys all aspects of the job – collecting data, analyzing it, drafting reports, making recommendations, and ultimately, finding ways to make Bristol a safer and more comfortable community for those who live here.
Shout out to Transportation Engineer Micah Bray, a newcomer to our community who is committed to making Bristol an even better place to live. He’s another great example of Bristol At Work.