President's Message

Place a priority on volunteerism

Judith M. Mueller
APWA President

As I pass the halfway point in my term of office as your president, I would like to take a moment to thank the many members who have volunteered to serve in national leadership positions. I have also been fortunate to attend 23 chapter meetings and events, where I have met literally hundreds, if not thousands, of potential volunteer leaders-many of whom I hope will someday have the pleasure of giving back to the profession as a volunteer leader.

As president, I have had the privilege to appoint over 250 members to various committees, task forces, and external appointments that are essential to keeping APWA on the cutting edge of the public works profession. I am pleased to note that most of those that I appointed have carried through on their commitment to help lead the Association in pursuit of our Strategic Plan. I encourage all of our volunteers to re-double their effort on behalf of the Association during the remainder of their term.

Volunteerism in North America has been in decline for several decades and shows no sign of diminishing anytime soon. The American Red Cross has seen a decline in their volunteers from 220 million in 1990 to just over 100 million today. Last year, many of those whom I asked to serve in leadership positions declined the opportunity because of decreased support from their employer or because they had less discretionary time to serve in professional organizations.

At the World Volunteer Conference in Edmonton in 1998, Huguette Labelle, president of the Canadian International Development Agency, noted in her keynote address, "We also need to challenge our employers so they recognize the volunteer activities of their employees. And it's not just okay, but it's rewarded." We should take her words to heart and make sure that we make volunteering a priority within our own organizations.

By the time you read this column, president-elect Richard Ridings will have started the daunting task of identifying potential leaders and making his appointments for next year. He will need the support of all of our members and chapter officers in identifying highly qualified volunteers who are willing to commit time to make the Association better.

I hope that you will take the time to encourage your employees and employer to place a high priority on volunteerism, especially if it is for APWA, either at the chapter or national level. Since we are a volunteer-driven organization, you are essential to our ultimate success.