Finding friends on the Yellow Brick Road

Susan M. Hann, P.E., AICP
Deputy City Manager
City of Palm Bay, Florida
Chair, APWA Leadership & Management Committee

If you've taken the Myers-Briggs test and you're an "I" (= Introvert) like me, the thought of navigating through a room full of strangers at any event is pretty terrifying. I can relate to Dorothy landing in Oz and being somewhat reluctant to meet the Munchkins, not to mention the Wicked Witch of the West. Fortunately, Dorothy had several very talented mentors who helped her navigate her way through the challenges of a new community. If you think of the Oz analogy, Glinda, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion all mentored Dorothy (in some very unique and creative ways) as she tried to assimilate into unfamiliar circumstances. Dorothy eventually found her own way and became a leader among her friends, but she was able to grow faster and farther because of the mentoring she received from others.

Also, Dorothy's mentors learned quite a lot from their mentoring experience. At the end of the journey, the Wizard of Oz bestowed testimonials of brains, heart and courage on the group. Each had also grown from their relationship with Dorothy and their peers.

By now, I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with the Oz analogy. Well, Congress is in Kansas City this year; and Kansas is the focal point of the Wizard of Oz tale. So, if you're coming to Congress this year, APWA is offering an opportunity for you to fly around the convention center on a broomstick. Oops—sorry—that program is still in development. But, what is available this year is the Emerging Leaders Program, where less experienced Congress attendees can hook up with a more experienced Congress attendee to learn the ropes about Congress, to share those stories about work challenges and life stresses, and to attend specially-designed programs for emerging public works leaders.

So, what is an "emerging public works leader"? An emerging leader is a first-time Congress attendee who has less than five years of experience in the field or as a supervisor. During Congress, emerging leaders are paired with experienced public works professionals who will provide networking opportunities, discuss career issues, and guide first-timers through the APWA Congress and Exposition experience. In addition to one-on-one time with a seasoned professional, the program also includes three breakfast sessions on leadership and management issues specifically oriented towards those starting their career in public works.

It is also important to note that an emerging leader is someone WHO GETS A DISCOUNT ON THE CONGRESS REGISTRATION FEE! As an emerging leader registrant, you get full Congress registration and the special sessions (and extra food) for emerging leaders, all at a discounted rate. This program is an investment that APWA makes in the future of the public works profession.

So, if you're new to the profession or new to Congress and would like a guided tour of the Congress experience, please take a few moments and visit the APWA website to learn more about the Emerging Leaders program. Or if you're already convinced this program is for you, please contact Ann Daniels at (816) 595-5223 or adaniels@apwa.net. All applications must be received by APWA by August 1, 2006. Registration is limited to 50 participants.

Also, if you're one of those "seasoned professionals"—we'd like to invite you to be a mentor during Congress. You can help shape the future of public works with your investment of time in future public works leaders. Contact Ann Daniels to make your Congress experience even better!

If you have any questions about the program or if you want to talk to me about how valuable this program has been for me, please drop me an e-mail or a phone call. The Emerging Leaders program is a great way to make new friends in public works—which can be very helpful when you have a Wicked Witch mad at you.

See you at Congress!

Sue Hann can be reached at (321) 952-3413 or hanns@palmbayflorida.org.