A model of inclusiveness within APWA

Augie Chang
Vice President
San Diego, California
Member, APWA Diversity Committee

I first met Kimberly Eades at one of our chapter's general luncheon meetings. She was seated at a table across from me, and was introduced to me as our new chapter webmaster. As many of you know, it is extremely important to keep a chapter's website current, so I was glad that a new young member with such energy was excited about filling this key role. Now everyone in our chapter knows Kim, as she also disseminates our chapter e-mail communications.

At the end of the lunch meeting I noticed that Kim was seated in a wheelchair, and with the help of my finely-tuned deductive reasoning, I concluded that she was physically disabled. I am glad that I had gotten to know her without first noticing her disability. Would it have changed our conversation? I truly don't know, but I was glad to have first met Kimberly the person. She is more accustomed to refer to her "handicap" with similar references to a golfer's handicap.

Acting in my role as our chapter's Diversity Liaison, I could not think of a better "success story" promoting inclusiveness within our membership than Kimberly Eades. I asked Kim if she would mind my writing an article on her, her background in public works, and her professional development experiences to date, to share with our membership. Without hesitation, she agreed.

Kimberly Eades with her mentor, Jim Ashcraft, Senior Project Manager with Tetra Tech.

Kim is employed at Tetra Tech in San Diego as a design engineer for predominantly water/wastewater projects. Her husband works as a scheduler for a local defense contractor. A native of Oklahoma City, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma and moved to San Diego in the fall of 1999 to begin her professional career. Her passions include spending time with her white long-haired cat (Eric the Schmeric) and tending to their garden of succulent plants (cacti, to us who are botanically challenged). In fact, Kim's studies included an emphasis in physics, environmental engineering, and botany. She was active in Our Earth, assisting in the coordination of a couple of Earth Day celebrations on the lawns of Duck Pond that included live bands, speakers, and sustainable businesses, and also attends the ASCE Pipeline Group meetings.

Kim is thankful that Tetra Tech encourages her to participate in APWA, become an active member, and network with her fellow peers and clients by subsidizing her membership dues, lunches, and an allowance of time to carry out chapter responsibilities.

I asked Kim a series of questions from our recent Diversity Survey:

When did you develop an interest in pursing a career in public works? I guess I would say that I've always been interested in pursuing a career within public works, now that I've developed a clearer understanding of what it encompasses: the design, maintenance, and operation of the civil infrastructure with all the relevant planning, politics, and management.

Who was an influence in your pursuing a career in public works? My decision to join public works was inadvertently supported by my academic advisor, and my professor of Introduction to Civil Engineering class, Dr. Paul Bowan, among others.

Did high school/college courses help you prepare? In high school and college I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study basic math, science, and social studies with inspiring and interesting teachers and professors. My high school studies also included AP Calculus and Physics. Additional course work in college that I feel contributes to a sense of propriety included a semester of Entrepreneurship for Non-Business Majors.

Have you received support from the workplace regarding flextime, telecommuting, etc.? My workplace is very supportive, and my supervisors are understanding and approachable with regards to accommodating my rare requests for telecommuting and flextime.

Do you think outreach and community involvement will increase the number of women in public works? I'm not sure that outreach and community involvement will increase the number of women in public works. I think perhaps more of a mentorship and thoughtful relationship building would be more engaging. Though outreach may be somewhat related, the direct introduction of professionals to small groups of students or young professionals would be invaluable.

Is it important that your work is making a difference in people's lives? Yes, it is very important that my work makes a positive difference in people's lives. I often say "live to serve, serve to live." It's a phrase inspired by a famous poem I learned in high school by India's beloved Rabindranath Tagore: "I slept and dreamt that life was joy/I awoke and saw that life was service/I acted and behold, service was joy." As such, my ideal career has never been dictated by income potential insofar as living within my means allows me to enjoy a healthy and rewarding life.

How important are a positive work environment, helpful coworkers and a safe environment? A positive work environment, helpful coworkers, and a safe atmosphere are essential elements to a productive and satisfying job.

Are your professional goals being met? My professional development goals are being met. My supervisors are very supportive in my efforts to participate in professional organizations, and improve my accreditation.

Would you attend a women's networking meeting at an APWA conference? I read Susan Hann's article "A woman's place is...wherever she wants to be" in the December 2005 APWA Reporter. I was very empathetic to the points she made regarding the frequent, seemingly exclusive use of gathering into women-only groups. However, if such gatherings were typically open forums such as she described they had at the 2005 Congress, then I would welcome the opportunity.

Author's Note: I would like to thank Kimberly Eades and Howard Arnold, Tetra Tech, for allowing Kim to serve as our chapter webmaster, and encouraging a younger, more diverse membership to be active in APWA.

Augie Chang, with Psomas, is the Chapter Delegate and the Diversity Liaison for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of APWA, and sits on the National Diversity Committee of APWA. He can be reached at (858) 576-9200 or achang@psomas.com.