Diversity—what a year!

Ann Burnett
Governmental Liaison for Pacific Bell (retired)
San Diego, California
Chair, APWA Diversity Committee

The APWA Diversity Committee's Mission Statement is as follows:

"The American Public Works Association recognizes, appreciates and fosters the synergy, which is created when the work environment values the differences in individuals and practices inclusiveness and open communication."

All of the members of the Diversity Committee believe this wholeheartedly, and have actively practiced it in their daily lives and with the accomplishments that have been made this past year—we started our year in Philadelphia with the fifth annual First Timers Meeting that attracted over 150 attendees with rave reviews and great participation. (There is a soft spot in my heart for this program—I was on this committee when we introduced it back in 1997.) This meeting is a must for those of you who have never attended Congress before—be sure to put our sixth annual meeting on your schedule for Sunday at 8:00 a.m. in Kansas City.

Also, as part of our activity at Philadelphia's Congress, we placed a Diversity Survey in the registration bags and gained additional insight into public works workplace diversity awareness. As a result of this survey, we have contacted several people who indicated they would be willing to share their diversity workplace experiences during our educational sessions in Kansas City.

Our committee was responsible for having six articles published in the Reporter, from diversity case studies, to lessons learned about diversity issues, and personal profiles on accomplished and diverse members of our profession.

Volume I of our Diversity Resource Guide (published in May 2001) can now be downloaded free from our website on the Committee's web page at www.apwa.net/Documents/MembersOnly/APWA_Diversity_Guide.pdf. We are currently working on Volume II of the Guide to be published next year and would appreciate input from members on what issues you would like to have included.

Through the efforts of our chapter presidents and delegates, we have identified members from 28 chapters as Diversity Liaisons to work with the National Committee on diversity issues. These members are very important to APWA's work in valuing the differences in our membership and in creating and maintaining the feeling of inclusiveness for each of our members. We are encouraging all 67 chapters to identify one person to carry out the responsibility of making all members feel valued and included.

By updating and refining some of the activities under our Chapter Diversity Liaison Responsibilities policy, we believe this will be a more flexible guide for participation at the chapter level.

Three winners, to be announced at Congress in Kansas City, have been selected to receive the 2002 Diversity Exemplary Practices Award for 2002. For 2003, we have revised the award criteria to be more succinct and clear in the achievements of award nominees. We changed the categories from four—1) federal, state, or local government units; 2) educational institutions; 3) non-profit institutions; and 4) private sector organizations—to two: individual and program/organization. We always have the discretion to give a third award.

We are excited about our educational sessions for Kansas City, one of which will be co-sponsored with the International Affairs Committee on Cultural Etiquette. Some of the other sessions include Elizabeth Mitchell discussing "Respect—You Get it or You Don't!" on Sunday. Our Diversity Luncheon speaker on Monday will be Shelley Wolff on "Women in Engineering-The Gender Gap." Our Roundtable on Tuesday will be a discussion of the Chapter Diversity Resource Guide.

Our Business Meeting at Congress this year will be held on Monday, from 8:00-10:00 a.m. This meeting is open to everyone, and we particularly encourage all the Chapter Diversity Liaisons to attend. Part of our agenda will be a discussion on educational sessions for 2003 in San Diego, and we would appreciate any input on the type of diversity issues you would like to have addressed.

When I was appointed to the Council on Equal Opportunity, predecessor to the Diversity Committee, in 1991, our focus was the advocacy of women and minorities. This group has evolved to a more inclusive approach, and a greater effort should be made to include younger association members in this process.

I want to thank my committee this year for their hard work and dedication, and especially their efforts during our eight conference call meetings. They include:

  • John Benda, Manager of Maintenance & Traffic, Illinois State Toll Hwy Authority
  • Vanessa Conrad, Manager of Administration, City & County of San Francisco, CA
  • Jason Cosby, Assistant Director of Public Works, City of San Antonio, TX
  • Betty Francis, Director of Public Works & Transportation, Prince George's County, MD
  • Elrhei Thibodeaux, Executive Director, City of New Orleans, LA
  • Donald Stackhouse, Road Maintenance Superintendent, Jefferson Parish, Marrero, LA
  • Duane Turner (Special Guest), Prince George's County, MD
  • Larry Lux, Board Liaison, President, Lux Advisors, Ltd., Plainfield, IL
  • Kaye Sullivan, APWA Staff, Deputy Executive Director, Kansas City, MO
I want to congratulate Herb Fain, and wish him luck as next year's Diversity Chair. We are all looking forward to seeing many members in Kansas City, and new attendees at our First Timers Meeting!

To reach Ann Burnett, send e-mail to aburnett@pacbell.net.