INTERNATIONAL IDEA EXCHANGE

Minneapolis memories

Dr. Jiri Neuzil
Medical Veterinary Doctor
Owner, REMIT Ltd.
Sternberk, Czech Republic
Member, APWA/CZPWA/SPWA Task Force

On the basis of a Cooperative Agreement signed between APWA and CZPWA in September 2004 in Atlanta, two representatives attended the APWA Congress in Minneapolis: Jiri Neuzil from the Czech Republic Public Works Association and Augustin Schmidl from the Slovak Public Works Association. We spent only four days in Minneapolis, but it was a busy and pleasant time!

I met with Augustin for the first time at the Prague International Airport and via Amsterdam we flew directly to Minneapolis. A very good friend, Mr. Craig Sinclair from the City of Minnetonka Public Works Department, helped us with accommodations and an itinerary. We were also invited to meet with the Slovak Honorary Konsul, Mr. John Luknic. We had very good hosts who took care of us all the days we were in Minneapolis.

We arrived in Minneapolis on the evening of September 9 and Mr. Luknic helped us to find the hotel. On the way he showed us around the city of Minneapolis. On Saturday morning Craig picked us up at the hotel lobby to visit his agency. It was great to see the new Minnetonka PW Department, because most of us are looking for new inspiration, how to rebuild our own company, especially if all of the equipment, fleet and sectors are in the same place. It was a pity that we were in a hurry. In the afternoon we said goodbye to Craig and followed Mr. Luknic to his residence for a barbecue party. We met a few Czech and Slovak-Americans and discussed all of our lives. Our Slivovice liquor and the American barbecue managed to give us a wonderful evening.

On Sunday morning we attended the Opening General Session at Congress. During the morning we met a lot of our old friends: Geoff and Margo Greenough, George and Jackie Crombie, Brad and Suzi Kutzner, and Helena Allison (a Czech-American APWA member). We were happy to see them. Our educational presentation started at 3:00 p.m., titled "The Impact of the European Union on the Czech and Slovak Republics: One Year Later." Fifty minutes is really a very short time to say everything, but I hope that generally a good picture was provided. It was to our advantage that no one had a presentation after us so we were able to discuss after 3:00 p.m.

Later that afternoon we were welcomed to the Get Acquainted Party. There was very hot weather in Minneapolis. We were surprised as the temperature in Prague was 8? C! The cold beer helped us to survive. There we saw our hosts from Atlanta, Mr. Richard L.V. Coates and Abdullah Hajer, and talked with many other friends with similar public works problems. After finishing the party we were invited by Jackie Crombie to an Irish pub, where we spent an informal meeting with our friends and tasted the second best beer—Irish, after Czech Pilsner Urquell, of course.

On Monday morning Augustin, Helena and I visited the exhibit hall. There was a lot of new inspiration and we compared the exhibitions in the EU to the USA. During the day we attended special educational sessions, including "Hot Mix Asphalt Pavement Construction with Municipal Waste Combustor Ash" by Mark Zaban and his colleagues. It was very pertinent for the EU, too. A very interesting lesson was presented by Bret Hodne called "Motivating Employees to Excellence. " This was all a very interesting experience.

Enjoying themselves during the International Guests Reception at the 2005 Congress are (from left) APWA Board member Diane Linderman, Jiri Neuzil, Augustin Schmidl and Richard McCoy, Public Works Director for the City of Robbinsdale, Minnesota.

In the evening we were invited to the International Guests Reception. That is what I like about public works. We have met friends from New Zealand, Australia, Mexico...excellent! We talked about our preparation for winter, they talked about their preparation for summer! I was very pleased to meet APWA President Bob Freudenthal and Past President Thomas W. Trice. We would like to invite them to the heart of Europe.

By the way, a wonderful day was finished in a jazz club, where we met our Australian and New Zealand friends again.

Tuesday was our last day in Minneapolis. In the morning we left our hotel and spent the time again in the Convention Center. There were a lot of meetings with our partners from all over the world and we wished them the best in the next year. The most important meeting was the APWA/CZPWA/SPWA Task Force. Kaye Sullivan, Geoff Greenough, Brad Kutzner, Helena Allison, August Schmidl and I evaluated last year's events and activities and considered next year's tasks. I very much appreciated meeting President Freudenthal at the meeting. I hope that our partnership is receiving contributions from both sides.

We are looking forward to an APWA presentation at the CZPWA/SPWA Spring General Meeting in 2006 in Europe.

Thanks to all our American friends for their hospitality!

Jiri Neuzil can be reached at jiri.neuzil@mariuspedersen.cz.