The 2002 Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year

Since 1960, APWA has singled out ten individuals each year who best represent the finest in the public works profession. Following are this year's choices...

Patricia Chilton Biegler, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Chesapeake, Virginia

As Director of Public Works for the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, Patricia Chilton Biegler, P.E., is responsible for the management and operation of all public works activities and oversees more than 400 employees. The Public Works Department maintains over 2,100 miles of roadways and associated traffic control devices, approximately 1,600 miles of drainage systems, and 77 bridges and structures.

  • By instituting new technology along with proven management practices, Biegler established a customer service program that has enabled the Department to better manage citizens' requests for service and maintenance.

  • Under Biegler's leadership, a change in trash collection service was implemented to improve efficiency of operations, reduce redundant operations, increase levels of recycling, and provide better and more consistent standards of service. The result has been a doubling in the amount of recycled material collected and higher customer satisfaction.
"Ms. Biegler has made dramatic improvements to the overall organization and efficiency of the Department of Public Works," said Anne F. Odell, Assistant City Manager for Operations, City of Chesapeake, Virginia. "The many recent successes of the Public Works Department have contributed greatly to the quality of life of every resident of the City of Chesapeake."

August A. Caires
General Manager
Padre Dam Municipal Water District
Santee, California

August A. Caires has been the General Manager of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District for the past nine years, and his career in public service spans 32 years. The responsibilities he has successfully met at Padre Dam include meeting the needs of District customers; achieving and maintaining a sound financial condition; providing effective strategic planning; and communicating effectively with the Board, staff, customers, and others who impact the District.

  • Due to Caires's leadership, the District has developed a 20-year Master Plan of capital improvement projects in water, wastewater, and recycled water, resulting in identified savings of $140 million from the previous Master Plan.

  • Caires has provided leadership in developing an aggressive cost control program which resulted in the cut of 14.7 percent since the 1993-94 fiscal year.
"Mr. Caires exemplifies excellence in public service by providing outstanding leadership in promoting collaborative work environments, employing entrepreneurial innovations in the workplace, and providing forward-thinking governance," said Doug Wilson, Director of Finance, Padre Dam Municipal Water District.

Jason Cosby
Director of Public Works
City of Lancaster, Texas

As Director of Public Works for the City of Lancaster, Texas, Jason Cosby is responsible for managing the departments of water and wastewater, fleet services, streets, transportation and traffic, building inspections, planning, engineering, and public works. In addition, Cosby oversees all construction and development throughout the City.

  • Cosby has led the efforts for the City of Lancaster's infrastructure development by implementing a pavement management system that allowed the City Council to request matching funds from Dallas County for the present Houston School Road widening project and future transportation projects within the City.

  • Cosby developed the first safety training program for the Public Works Department, which allows each staff member periodically to present a safety problem and solution to each division. Other City departments are encouraged to join in the monthly safety discussions.
"I've found Mr. Cosby to be honest and straightforward in his approach to his work, business, and family," said Alberta Blair-Robinson, P.E., Assistant Director, Dallas County Public Works. "He has demonstrated a high degree of loyalty and trustworthiness to his work and to his associates and has carried out his obligations with vigor and resolve."

George Crombie
Director of Public Works
City of Nashua, New Hampshire

As Director of Public Works for the City of Nashua, New Hampshire, George Crombie manages a full-service public works division including engineering, traffic and parking, streets, wastewater, solid waste, and parks and recreation. His primary focus has been instituting comprehensive public works management systems including development of a senior management team, finance and budgeting principles, employee education/safety, timeline management and capital development.

  • Crombie has guided the City through a number of key environmental projects, including the Multi-Site Landfill Closure and Park Renovation Project which provides state-of-the-art closure and post-closure reuse to five former City landfills, as well as construction of one of New Hampshire's few publicly owned and operated lined landfills.

  • As part of his involvement in APWA's Solid Waste Management Committee, Crombie volunteered to write an article for the APWA Reporter on the role of the New York City Sanitation Department in the cleanup of the World Trade Center. Crombie approached the New York City personnel who were involved, conducted key interviews, and contributed the cover story for the March 2002 issue. Also for the Committee, he is taking the lead in developing a technical publication on the subject of the beneficial reuse of old landfills.
"George Crombie has maintained a level of professionalism, innovation and dedication to his role in the public works community," said Robert Smith, U.S. Senator, State of New Hampshire. "He is an individual truly dedicated to public service and has become a leader in both his field and the community."

David A. Gravenkamp, P.E.
Director of Public Works
Siskiyou County, California

David A. Gravenkamp, P.E., Director of Public Works for Siskiyou County, California, has consistently demonstrated the ability to effectively manage a multifaceted program with a staff of 140 and a budget of $25 million. A California licensed civil engineer, he has worked for Siskiyou County for 38 years.

  • Gravenkamp had worked for the County less than six months when a flood destroyed much of the County's infrastructure. He worked successfully with federal and state agencies to bring about the timely replacement/repair of the flood-damaged facilities. Since then, the County has been declared a disaster on five other occasions. On each, Gravenkamp has supervised the timely restoration while at the same time realizing the maximum reimbursement from state/federal disaster agencies.

  • During his tenure Gravenkamp has replaced more than 110 of the County's 175 bridges. Most recently a 373-foot Pennsylvania Pratt truss over the Klamath River was replaced using modern bridge building materials.
"Dave has been an active participant in the Shasta Cascade Branch of the Sacramento Chapter since its inception," said Win Westfall, Past Sacramento Chapter and National APWA President. "In addition to his contributions to the local chapter of APWA, Dave has been very active in the County Engineers Association of California and at the national level in the National Association of County Engineers."

Charles E. Owsley, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Lee's Summit, Missouri

Charles E. Owsley, P.E., Director of Public Works for the City of Lee's Summit, Missouri, is well known for his leadership abilities and enthusiasm in the public works arena. A past president of the Kansas City Metro Chapter, Owsley is highly respected by his peers and thought of as a true public works professional deserving of the Top Ten award.

  • Owsley developed a strategic plan for the selection and submittal of Lee's Summit road projects that would have the best chance for selection by the Transportation Committees of the Mid America Regional Council for allocation of Surface Transportation Project funding. This plan has been very successful as evidenced by the allocation of $8.8 million for projects in Lee's Summit over the past four years.

  • Under Owsley's direction, snow and ice control operations have improved by converting from a 50-50 sand/salt mixture to a straight salt application with calcium chloride pre-wetting. He also oversaw the construction of a salt dome that allowed the Department to keep under cover a full winter's supply of salt.
"Chuck has proven himself to be a valuable asset to the organization and to the community," said Karen R. Messerli, Mayor of Lee's Summit, Missouri. "His exuberant work ethic demonstrates not only his dedication to the citizens of our community but also to the field of public service."

James M. Reynolds
Director of Public Works
Village of Northbrook, Illinois

James M. Reynolds has devoted his entire 35-year professional career to the Village of Northbrook, Illinois, Public Works Department. This career path has provided him with progressively responsible experience in leading people and managing municipal infrastructure and related assets. He has been the Village's Director of Public Works for more than 24 years.

  • Over the years, Northbrook has had its share of local emergency disaster-type situations, including record flooding in 1987 and record snowfalls in 2000. Reynolds has managed response and recovery efforts following five such disasters within the community (four Presidential declarations and one State declaration).

  • Due to documented need, Reynolds led a massive upgrading of the Village's water system to plan, inform, promote and educate the Village Board and citizens on the need to upgrade and expand the system. The multi-phased project began with the construction of 4.3 miles of 30-inch cross-town water main. That improvement resulted in enhanced reliability and customer service as well as improved fire flows, especially during periods of peak demand.
"This community has been extremely blessed to have Jim with us," said John Novinson, Village Manager, Village of Northbrook, Illinois. "He's never let us down, and has always exceeded our expectations. It's always comforting when another organization confirms what we've known for a long time. It doesn't get any better than this."

Gary W. Simmons, Sr.
Public Works Director
City of Postville, Iowa

Gary W. Simmons, Sr., Public Works Director for the City of Postville, Iowa, embraces the human interest and economic development opportunities that these situations bring to Postville. He brings background learning and experience to the planning and infrastructure needs for new housing subdivisions and business developments.

  • Simmons has worked extensively on extending infrastructure (water and sewer) to the newly-annexed areas of the City. He formed a housing task force including contractors, bankers, landowners, and City personnel and worked with them to offer incentives in the form of tax rebates to encourage the construction of new housing. As a part of this, he is overseeing the extension of water and sewer to new housing developments.

  • New construction also includes the building of a new Child Care Center in Postville. Simmons acted as the liaison between the City, the Child Care Center Board, and the engineer as plans were developed. As construction begins in the spring of 2002, Simmons will act as project coordinator for the City since they will be the owners of the building.
"I have watched Gary deal with exceedingly complex issues with tremendous patience, persistence, and diplomacy," said Dale A. Watson, P.E., President, FOX Engineering Assoc., Inc., Ames, Iowa. "His ability to develop creative, win/win solutions has certainly been a major factor in the successes of his community."

Lawrence Thacker, Jr., Ph.D.
Director, Public Works Department
City of Port St. Lucie, Florida

Lawrence Thacker, Jr., Ph.D., is the Director of the City of Port St. Lucie's Public Works Department. He also serves as the Department's Emergency Management Coordinator. He manages the Department's day-to-day operations overseeing 88 permanent employees and 50 contract personnel.

  • Thacker developed the Department's formal training program for heavy equipment operations with the Indian River Community College. This training program has enabled the Department to cross-train each of the employees, thus increasing production by 35 percent. In addition, he developed the Department's safety program that has been duplicated in other departments within the City.

  • Thacker set the goal and directed the activities of the various Department personnel and the Accreditation Manager to obtain accreditation through APWA. That goal was achieved in July 2001, becoming the first public works agency in the State of Florida and the eighth agency internationally to become accredited.
"Larry exemplifies what a Public Works Director should be," said Robert E. Minsky, Mayor of Port St. Lucie, Florida. "His outstanding interpersonal skills and his interest, enthusiasm and intelligence to be a leader in his profession have entitled him to obtain the Top Ten honor."

Marc J. Thornsberry, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Springfield, Missouri

As the Director of Public Works for the City of Springfield, Missouri, Marc J. Thornsberry, P.E., is responsible for coordination and oversight of departmental operations, budget and personnel policies for more than 375 full-time employees. The Public Works Department administers an operating budget in excess of $47 million in addition to an adopted six-year capital improvements program of approximately $160 million.

  • Under Thornsberry's leadership, the City of Springfield has formed a strong collaboration with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and with the local MoDOT District 8. The City and MoDOT operate a totally integrated Transportation Management System which is unique in Missouri and has been cited nationally as a Best Practice.

  • Thornsberry took the lead with the Chamber of Commerce to develop a City/Chamber-owned, 350-acre Industrial Park. This planned development included all the infrastructure put in place by the City. It is 90 percent sold out after only six years. The partnership is now developing a second 400-acre Industrial Park.
"Marc is that rare combination of a committed professional public works manager, a person with tremendous leadership abilities, and a quality person committed to his family, church, and community," said Tom Finnie, City Manager, City of Springfield, Missouri.