Mr. WSDOT — the man who’s helped make road alerts interesting and ‘artistic’ — is heading to a new job

Mr. WSDOT's goodbye cartoon. (Credit: WSDOT on Facebook)
Mr. WSDOT's goodbye cartoon. Mike Allende brought a certain artistic flair to his position managing the department's social media. (Credit: WSDOT on Facebook)



When Mike Allende started managing social media for the Washington State Department of Transportation, he was told “don’t be boring.”

“Boring” is probably the last word any one would use to describe Allende’s approach to the job, which massively grew engagement while he worked there. Known by some fans as Mr. WSDOT, he’s the man behind the most followed state department of transportation Twitter, or X, account nationwide, with some 543,000 followers on the department’s traffic page. 

On the department’s social media, Allende said goodbye as he prepared to start a new job at Seattle University. “I’m going to miss those day-to-day interactions, both with the people I work with, and then of course, with the public,” Allende said. “It was a really awesome experience to engage with the public that closely.”

Allende helped bring humor and humanity to what could be stressful situations on Washington roads.

“I think it’s really easy for people to think about a large government agency as just this giant, faceless blob,” Allende said. 

With his posts, he sought to remind people that the people that work for WSDOT are sometimes impacted by the same stressful road situations as the rest of us.

“We honestly made it a strategy to really have a friendly voice in social media and put our information in front of people,” said Jeremy Bertrand, the digital outreach manager for WSDOT.

With that approach, when emergencies do happen, Bertrand said the accounts have the audience already there, so they can actually reach people who need to know. 

“I started this in 2008, opening up the traffic account and the main accounts, and it was great to hand it off to Mike and see him grow it to the platform it is now,” Bertrand said. 

In an age of content, what made WSDOT’s posts stand out? Perhaps it’s relatability. Allende is a 49-year-old dad that tells a lot of dad jokes. 

“I fall back on a lot of my experience, which was growing up in the 80s and 90s,” Allende said. “I kind of trust that my audience is going to be able to follow along on some of the stuff I push out.”

WSDOT’s social media presence has resulted in some happy stories, too, like when the agency reunited a little boy with his lost dinosaur toy. Allende said that’s his favorite thing he’s ever done in his job. 

Allende doesn’t just type his humorous and informative posts. Sometimes, he takes pen to paper to illustrate what’s going on, like his illustration of a cow run amuck on the interstate. Of those drawings, Allende said there’s no secret technique behind the comical stick-figures.

“I’m a horrible drawer, like I’m terrible,” Allende said. “We’ve had people who think that I’m just purposefully drawing like a kindergartener, no, that is literally the best drawing that I can possibly do.”

While the department’s social media accounts do get ample engagement, Bertrand acknowledged that there has been a significant decrease in interaction on Twitter, now X, in the last year. He said WSDOT continues to look to meet people where they are, to keep them engaged and informed online of what’s happening on the roads.