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From the very beginning, the American Public Works Association has had the diversity that characterizes it today. APWA is the result of the merger of two predecessor organizations, the American Society of Municipal Engineers (AME), which was formed in 1894, and the International Association of Public Works Officials (IAPWO), primarily comprised of non-engineers who were engaged in public works management and service delivery. The majority of the Society’s members were consultants, design engineers, construction supervisors, and water works directors.
Recognizing that other associations had established headquarters in Chicago and had obtained financial assistance in developing their programs to become self-sufficient, in 1934, AME and IAPWO agreed to work toward a joint organization. After creating a very successful Joint Public Works Congress where the two organizations could meet together, AME and IAPWO decided to merge. Funding was secured, and on January 1, 1937, the American Public Works Association was formed.
APWA has witnessed extensive growth, accomplishment, turmoil and transition. It has been a strong leader in many areas, including education, history and research, to name only a few. Over the years APWA has conducted scores of research projects and published many research reports that were regarded as significant contributions to the field of public works.
Special interest groups within public works were accommodated through the development of the Institutes for Professional Development (now known as technical committees), as well as through the introduction of specialty conferences such as the North American Snow Conference. Other special groups of note included the Council on Emergency Management, the Council on Equal Opportunity (now the diversity committee), the Public Works Historical Society, MicroPAVER, Management Practices and the Management Practices Accreditation Council.
APWA has demonstrated its commitment to strong international linkages by its support of the Canadian Public Works Association, and through the continual strengthening of relationships with public works officials in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and the Czech and Slovak Republic.
Motivated by the wish to upgrade office facilities and make visible and substantial changes in the organization, APWA headquarters was relocated to Kansas City in 1993. As public works services become more complex and the skills required to deliver them become more diverse, APWA continues to position itself to respond to these changes and the needs they identify. Building on our tradition of service to the public works profession, we will meet the challenges of being THE comprehensive public works resource in the 21st Century.
To read more about the history of APWA, read this article in PDF format.