APWA presidents provide words of wisdom on Congress

Editor's Note: If you want to know the value of attending APWA's International Public Works Congress and Exposition, who better to ask than the presidents of our association? Below are words of wisdom from our current and past presidents regarding our annual conference. The unexpected benefit of this project for me was the enjoyment of having conversations with many of our past presidents. Their enthusiasm for Congress was both obvious and infectious.

"Congress is the one single event that gives each member the most opportunity to partake in the three tenants of APWA. Educational courses abound and each year our programs become better and more focused on current strategic issues. Advocacy opportunities and reinforcement of financial and legislative issues confronting your areas of concern can be found at Congress during the training sessions and general session presentations. Relationship building with your peers gives you the chance to broaden our brand name and expand your human library with your counterparts in communities across the U.S. and Canada. Credible information can be exchanged with public works specialists in every field." — Richard L. Ridings, 2001-02

"Congress is such a wonderful time. You get to see old friends and public works folks from all the chapters, talk to our international guests, and all the time you are learning what's new in public works. Our general session speakers have been both fun and inspirational and I'm delighted to see so many spouses and guests attending these sessions. With technology changing so fast it's amazing to see the new products our exhibitors have—there is just nowhere else you can go and get up to speed on what's new in our profession in only four days!" — Judith M. Mueller, 2000-01

"Without question, the APWA Congress is the most anticipated event I attend annually. There are two reasons: first is the renewal of friendships I have developed over the years; and second is the excellent educational programs and committee activities." — Jerry M. Fay, 1999-2000

"The best time I had at Congress was before I was on the Board of Directors. I had time then to attend technical sessions and meet up with friends made from past years that I hadn't seen for a year (roaming the equipment exhibits is a good place to meet). I would meet with my staff prior to Congress and discuss what information they wanted, and they would provide me with a "wish list." When I returned from Congress, they not only received data on their "wish list," but also a "to do" list from me based on concepts I learned about from the various education sessions and follow-up conversations over coffee. We had some lively staff meetings after Congress discussing whether new concepts could/should be implemented in our own agency. Those were the good old days." — Robert H. Miller, 1998-99

"In my youth, the APWA Congress gave me the training, the networks and the experiences to take my public works career to the maximum of my capabilities. In my middle years it taught me of the rewards of making contributions to my profession by putting back some of what I took out. Now I go for the simple pleasure of watching and helping others along the same well-worn path. Kansas City will be number 24 for me and I hope to see 24 more!" — Robert Albee, 1997-98

"I've been attending the APWA Congress for many years now. I always learn something either from the educational sessions, committee meetings, or from my discussions with other attendees. Meeting old friends, and in my case as a consultant seeing clients, is something I look forward to." — Win S. Westfall, 1996-97

"With the increasing use of electronic communications we can easily forget the value of personal conversations and contacts. Attendance at Congresses in the past has been invaluable to me in establishing these personal contacts. I now feel that I have friends throughout the world as a direct result of past Congress attendance." — Ken Haag, 1995-96

"I always look forward to renewing friendships and sharing experiences. Ours is a knowledge-based industry and our peers are always eager to help one another solve problems and share information and ideas. Together with the technical program and equipment show, it's the best value out there." — Geoff Greenough, 1994-95

"Coming to Congress every year when I was working was always a treat because I got the chance to talk to other professionals who were interested in the same things I was interested in. Plus, I was able to keep up with what was being done around the country and make sure I was keeping my city abreast to what was happening. That's why I believe that coming to Congress every year is important. I think anybody in the field who wants to improve ought to be at every Congress. I come now and I'm not even in the field, but I enjoy knowing what's going on." — George Rowe, 1993-94

"Congress is the principal means I use for staying alive in the profession. I have the opportunity to hear technical sessions that present ideas that encourage creative thinking and unique approaches to new or existing issues. I can also view equipment, software and services that may offer better approaches to challenges facing my organization. Most importantly, I meet and talk with friends and acquaintances from all over the country and the world (and make new friends), thus grounding me more firmly in the profession and adding a dimension and understanding I would not otherwise have access to. Mostly, it's a fun and enjoyable way to stay relevant in an ever-changing world." — Ronald L. Norris, 1992-93

"The APWA Congress programs have been outstanding but even more importantly, they act as a catalyst to get members together for exchange of ideas. Those with a like interest get together in sessions and have an opportunity to discuss issues and new concepts after the sessions. The exchange of business cards and e-mail addresses puts peers together for continued exchange and sharing. This, of course, leads to long-lasting friendships that enhance the professional activities." — Ronald W. Jensen, 1990-91

"For new people entering the public works profession, the learning potential and networking with friends and peers at Congress is the ultimate APWA experience." — Harold E. Smith, 1989-90

"My original motivation to attend Congress was to keep current on the public works business through seminars and information provided at the Equipment Show (Exposition). What I discovered was that it was a golden opportunity to meet and chat in-depth with other public works professionals who were dealing with similar challenges. The result was increased self-confidence, enrichment of my career, and wonderful international friendships which continue to this day." — Roger K. Brown, 1987-88

"Returning home with cost-saving, innovative ideas for your organization to implement more than compensates for the cost of attending Congress." — June Rosentreter Spence, 1986-87

"Congress was always something special for me. It was more than just the chance to get away from home and eat a lot, or get away from home and have some kind of relief from the 'squeeze' that people and the elected officials can put on a public works official. It was always more than that—it was a refilling time for me, and it was a chance to be with my APWA family. Because I have always, from day one, looked at APWA as family. If you're a regular Congress attendee, you will build some good strong ties that will last you long after you retire from APWA." — Carl D. Wills, 1985-86

"I joined APWA in 1966 when I first joined a municipal agency as its commissioner. Through the years I have attended approximately thirty APWA Congresses. These visits provided me with up-to-date information that enabled me to successfully manage public works agencies at various levels of government. Ours is a dynamic profession and new equipment and methods are constantly being developed which makes the completion of our tasks much easier. Many of the ideas learned at the Congresses were of great help to me." — Michael R. Pender, 1984-85

"The learning experience provided by Congress sessions is reinforced by invaluable opportunities to meet professionals from other areas to exchange experiences and information. Such Congress contacts often lead to beneficial long-term mutual cooperation and support between agencies and individuals." — James L. Martin, 1983-84

"I attended my first annual meeting in Los Angeles in 1952 and found a new family. Everyone was eager to share procedures, techniques and contacts. They even shared their failures so you didn't make the same mistakes. Since then I have utilized the opportunity to network (that term wasn't used in those earlier days) to solve problems, and also to locate public works positions that would otherwise not be known. Although I've been retired for 14 years, I continue to attend and have continued to learn about the cutting edge of all of our profession. I think it's well worthwhile for anyone, particularly for the younger engineers and practitioners in public works." — Robert C. Esterbrooks, 1982-83

"Over and above the workshops and the professionalism, meeting counterparts from other parts of the country has been very beneficial to me. The opportunity to develop professional relationships with people who have had jobs similar to mine, so that I could pick up the phone and discuss various issues with them, has been a tremendous asset. And in many cases the professional relationships, especially when I was on the board, got to be enjoyable personal relationships as well." — Joseph F. Casazza, 1981-82

"The APWA Congress means a lot to any public works leader because on display there you have all of the new equipment and innovative ideas, and you can get a lot of information and take it back to your respective cities and departments. I remember some trouble we had with our garbage trucks—our drivers kept breaking their axles with our old transmissions. I went to Congress and saw some automatic transmissions on display on the exhibit floor, and thought this would be the thing to eliminate those problems. It was. My point is, as public works leaders go to the Congress they can pick up ideas that will save their citizens a lot of money and also give them better service." — Lambert C. Mims, 1979-80

"I encourage the members to attend these conferences. I can remember when I was the head of Streets and Sanitation in Chicago, that perhaps a dozen ideas that we now use in Chicago in scarifying the streets, railroad crossings and things of that type were the results of attending the public works conferences. So you meet not only compatriots and friends, but you come away with new ideas for your city and community. It's a great experience and a lot of fun." — James J. McDonough, 1978-79

"I've always found Congress to be very helpful. When you have a problem you can usually find a solution while going through the exhibits and/or the sessions. I know that was helpful to me, and I would urge others who are active in public works to do the same." — James E. McCarty, 1977-78

"I would certainly encourage our members to attend. Everyone goes through all the same problems, and Congress provides different solutions for how to tackle those problems. Plus, they'll get to see a lot of equipment that will help them perform their jobs." — Ray W. Burgess, 1975-76

"The annual Public Works Congress with its technical sessions, vendor exhibits, and social events provides opportunity to meet with my peers from other jurisdictions and reinforces the feeling that I am part of a great profession." — Herbert A. Goetsch, 1974-75

"During my 52 years of membership, APWA has always displayed its ability as a ready reference for both the elected officials and staff personnel on operational, technical, and legislative matters. All the facets of public works, including technology, administration, leadership, training, and legislation, to mention a few, are addressed by APWA. Its members keep up with current issues through the chapter meetings, the monthly publication of the Reporter, and an annual Congress where all the latest equipment, methodologies, and material are displayed." — Erwin F. Hensch, 1972-73

"My attendance at the APWA Congress over the years provided my city with the benefits of new and progressive ideas for public works management and operations. In addition, I saw the latest in improved equipment which led to better service for my community." — Myron D. Calkins, 1970-71

"The Congress means to me professionalism at its best. We learn and observe the latest advances in technology, management, and the other tools of our profession. We can utilize the fellowship and the ideas presented to enhance our services to our home communities—attend and share." — Robert S. Hopson, 1965-66

"Congratulations to APWA for another year of service and another Congress. I am proud and happy to have been for fifty years an active member of APWA, which serves the public in providing essential services for each community." — Roy W. Morse, 1964-65