Toll Booth Worker Reflects on 39 Year Career

By: Ashley Davidson
By: Ashley Davidson

If your morning commute takes you on the Natcher Parkway you might have met Cleo Butler.

"About 40 years. Close to it. It's been 39 years now."

Butler started working at the Kentucky Turnpike in 1963. Ever since then he's been meeting travelers with a smile and kind greeting.

"Good morning how are you today? It's a beautiful day!"

Butler takes his position as an ambassador of Kentucky very seriously and says the job has been good to him.

"I just enjoyed meeting people and dealing with people and it just sort of grew on me. I raised my children doing it all these years and put them through college."

Some people might consider working in a toll booth boring, but Butler says he's met a lot of interesting people along the way.

"Country music stars. People that travel the road. I guess the most famous person I met was Dick Clark."

He also has some comical memories from over the years. Like when they first opened, and travelers tried to write checks for the toll roads, but got turned down.

"They'd begin bartering with us! I've had people try to give me knives, flashlights, one guy tried to give me a spare tire."

When Kentucky started the toll road system they promised to make the roads free after they were paid off. Soon the Natcher Parkway, where Butler now works, will be toll free.

"Now that we're closing down after all these years, I think it is like the end of an era."

After almost 40 years on the job Butler will soon leave the toll booths.

"I'm sad to see it close, in a way, because I've been a part of it so long. All my life and it's been my career."

Butler says he's glad the state kept it's promise to make the road free after it was paid off. He says he will probably work five more years after the tolls are gone, in another Transportation Department job, before retiring to Florida.


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