Ten reasons to attend the APWA Congress

William E. Reichmuth, P.E.
Executive Director
Transportation Agency for Monterey County, California
Chair, APWA Transportation Committee

Editor's Note: Perhaps you've seen David Letterman read his Top Ten Lists on "The Late Show." The following is a Top Ten List of a different kind...the top ten reasons to attend APWA's Best Show in Public Works. While Bill says the list is written somewhat to first-timers, even Congress veterans can benefit from what he has to say.

(10) Your boss told you to. Why is this reason number ten? You should be tearing yourself away from work to hear about the latest material from the world's best experts. You have nothing more important or pressing. Beg, whine, find the travel money in another account, whatever it takes; you want to attend.

(9) Rebuild/reinvigorate yourself. This is your chance to get away from the everyday trials and tribulations of the public works business and take the opportunity to refresh yourself with a renewed long-term vision for your community which is to be gained from the Congress experience.

If you think Kansas City barbecue looks good, just wait until you taste it. (Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association)

(8) You've heard about Kansas City steaks and you want to check them out for yourself. Good reason...take advantage of this time to have dinner with friends and colleagues. Chat about anything and everything. Networking is a huge part of the Congress experience. My personal favorites are Lidia's (Italian, and yes, she's the one who does the PBS cooking show), Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue, and Capital Grille, but there are many others. This is the home of APWA, and any staff person will pass along their favorites with directions.

(7) You want to learn more about APWA. Trust me; you really do want to learn more about the association. There's only so much you can get off of APWA's website; after awhile, you just have to see for yourself. Check out the committee meetings, and especially check out APWA's space on the exhibit floor. Even a quick look will be enlightening as to all the resources APWA has to offer. See what your dues buy you and how you can take advantage of APWA's offerings for your own professional development as well as how APWA benefits your agency and community. Here's my personal favorite: Ask questions of anyone with a ribbon on their nametag. APWA has ribbons for everything—committee members, speakers, board members, staff, mentors, and many others. Seek out ribbons and chat with the wearer. Some people will have several ribbons; chat with them first.

The exhibit floor has it all...including the equipment experts who'd be happy to chat with you.

(6) You have a project and you're looking for experts. What we fondly call the "exhibit floor" is really much more. APWA's exhibit floor has consultants and engineers and advisors for everything in the wide spectrum of public works operations, from project managers to contractors, to soils/geotechnical to arborists to structures to pavements. You name it, they're there. Bring along a mailing list for your next request for proposals for just about anything; you're sure to add some names to it.

(5) You've heard about the exhibit floor and you want to see for yourself if it's really true. It is. The floor has something for everyone, backhoes and front end loaders and dump trucks and bulldozers and snowplows and storm drain vacuums and sewer jets and....well, you get the point. All the big names are there. Some people attend just for this part of the Congress, and it's worth the price of admission all by itself.

(4) You've heard about the "roundtables" and have an experience or an issue you'd like to share. Roundtables are an opportunity to share thoughts on a specific subject with other folks with the same ideas and concerns. Other than a topic, a roundtable has no agenda; a facilitator will keep the conversation going and try to elicit comments from everyone, but there is no obligation to speak. Just listen if you wish. However, this is your opportunity to consult with colleagues who are facing the same issues you are, and the conversations are invariably insightful and a learning experience for everyone.

(3) You've heard about the General Session speakers and want to hear them in person. These speakers are truly world class. You'll find the General Sessions to be highlights of your

Craig Zablocki's presentation in Atlanta '04 produced some of the funniest moments ever experienced during a Congress General Session.

Congress activities. The national anthems at the Opening Session will fill you with pride in our country and chosen field of endeavor, and the closing speaker (be sure you stay for this), always inspirational and moving, will set you on your way home ready for whatever challenges you face.

(2) You've heard about the quality of the educational sessions and want to attend. These sessions are the heart of Congress. All of us need an occasional time-out to stay educated on the latest technologies, issues, solutions, equipment, techniques, software, topic case studies, ad infinitum. Here's the place to do it. Hear from the experts who have been there, done it, and survived the experience. Scarf up every handout you find and take them home to your staff and colleagues.

(1) My personal reason for attending: You're really into networking with close friends as well as people you've never met before in your life. Earlier in this article I spoke of networking in a social sense. However, networking is equally important from a professional viewpoint. Congress is a critical mass of people who share your interests, concerns, issues, and career goals, so Congress has opportunity written all over it. You can introduce yourself around at sessions, on the exhibit floor, at roundtables, at sessions, and in mere minutes come up with solutions to tough problems that have kept you awake at nights while at home. The networking is that good.

See you at Congress in Kansas City.

Bill Reichmuth is the current Chair of APWA's Transportation Committee and a past Chair of the Water Resources Management Committee. He can be reached at (831) 775-0903 or reichmuth@tamcmonterey.org.