President’s Message

Louisville Congress: A great energizer

Judith Mueller
APWA President

By the time this issue of the Reporter hits your mailboxes, Congress will have been over for more than a month. And what a shame, too, because I spent the most incredible five days of my life in Louisville, and I wish Congress could have lasted much longer.

It rained a great deal of the time that week, but the rain never dampened the spirit of the attendees. The atmosphere was very positive, especially concerning the exposition and the education sessions. Of course, much of that positive feeling was due to the Kentucky folks and their hospitality!

In looking back at past Congresses, one thing that is so incredible is the exposition, and Louisville’s Congress was no exception. Quite frankly, it is almost overwhelming to see such a variety of equipment and services in one place. And it’s interesting to see the changing look of our exhibitors; for example, we now have quite a number of software vendors at the show. That is certainly indicative of how public works is changing, and how the computer has such an impact in everything that we do. But the equipment is still there, too, and that’s a huge part of the exposition.

Also, as I look back over the years, another important change is in regard to the quality of the educational programs. We have changed the general sessions to be far more “general” in nature, even a little amusing; we are such an umbrella organization, with people coming from different sectors of public works, that we are now offering general sessions that appeal to everyone. The three general session speakers this year were outstanding, and we received high praise for all three. All of the education sessions get better each year, as well.

The value of attending Congress

Having attended one of the best Congresses I have ever experienced, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the value our members get from attending Congress. Certainly, there is the opportunity to see what is new in the field, specifically in the exposition area. From an educational point of view, there is the opportunity to find out what is happening in the field and to learn from other people. Yet another benefit pertains to the idea of networking-by creating a network, you often end up meeting people in a session and talking with them afterwards, finding out that you have some things in common.

Another great part about attending Congress is that everything you may have been struggling with-so has everyone else. If you feel that all of the burdens of the world are on you-and they aren’t-well, that is the good part about Congress. You go back feeling good. At times you go into a session and someone is talking about this great thing that his or her department is doing and you think, “We’ve done that. We’re further ahead, we’re more innovative than maybe we give ourselves credit for.” So for many people, Congress is a real energizer.

Renewing old friendships is another benefit of attending Congress. I have a number of friends throughout the country that I routinely e-mail or talk to on the telephone, but physically the only time I see them is once a year at Congress. For me personally, I look forward to Congress week to see the friends I have made over the years.

Perhaps the main value of attending Congress can be found in this short note I received from David Modricker, Public Works Director for Ferguson Township, Pennsylvania: “Dear Mrs. Mueller: I attended the Congress and Expo for the first time in Louisville this year. It was wonderful! As a result, I plan to attend every year and become more active in the local APWA chapter.”

It’s going to be an exciting year

Yes, it is definitely going to be an exciting year for me as APWA President. Due to the fact that the Strategic Plan is in place, my duties will involve staying the course for the Board of Directors, going out and talking to the members, and then finding out if we are doing the right thing.

I am looking forward to going around the country, seeing places I have never seen and talking with members I have never met. Interestingly, each chapter has its own personality. There was a time when I thought all chapters were like the chapter I grew up in. Then I began traveling around the country and I realized that each chapter is like a little family with its own culture. Collectively, all of the chapters are quite fascinating.

A word of thanks…

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the APWA staff and all of the volunteers for making the Louisville Congress such a great success. It takes a total team effort to pull off an event of this magnitude, and the staff and volunteers were certainly up to the challenge. My sincere thanks for going the extra mile, and now it’s on to Philadelphia in 2001!