Congress is just around the corner
Judith M. Mueller
As I have traveled around the country and talked with members, I have found that there is tremendous excitement regarding our upcoming Congress in Philadelphia, September 9-12. Aside from Philadelphia being a great city, our members are enthused about the quality of the educational programs that Congress will be presenting. Each year the programs seem to be better than the year before!
For me personally, Congress presents an opportunity to see again all the people that I've had the chance to meet in my travels. But renewing acquaintances is a special part of Congress for me every year. There are numerous people with whom I've been on committees and performed APWA work over the years, and this is the one time that we all get a chance to see each other again.
For those of you attending Congress for the first time, I heartily recommend that you attend the First Timers Meeting. It is a great way to see that you are not alone and that there will be many people there for the first time. Take the opportunity to meet some of them, and take full advantage of your first Congress experience.
Since there is so much that goes on at Congress and it is almost overwhelming your first time, I also recommend you spend some time looking over the program and try to zero in on the education sessions you want to attend. There are many competing activities, so look through the program ahead of time and locate the key things that are important to you. If there are multiple people coming from the same public works department, try to spread out the sessions so that you can cover as much as you possibly can, leaving plenty of time to go through the exhibit floor. You can't tour the exhibit floor in a couple of hours. Taking blocks of time each day to go through the floor will make it more meaningful for you.
(Be sure to visit APWA's website-www.apwa.net-and click on The Best Show in Public Works to review the education sessions you want to attend and the exhibiting companies you want to talk with. Then click on Personal Itinerary to electronically chart your Congress week.)
Congress provides plenty of value for the First Timers as well as for members who have attended multiple times. Certainly, there is the opportunity to find out how other agencies have solved problems that you may be trying to deal with. You can see what kind of cutting-edge programs other public works departments have begun. And, of course, there is the opportunity to wander through the exhibit floor and see what the vendors have and what may be new. Many of the exhibitors will display computer programs and management systems. You will be able to compare and contrast what is available for you, and see which systems best match your needs.
The social functions at Congress are just as important as the exhibit floor and the education sessions, and it is here where you have informal conversations with other attendees. You might talk with someone you met at a technical session, or perhaps with someone from your chapter who went to another session. In any case, this is the opportunity to establish networks with your fellow public works professionals from all over the United States and Canada. This year we will also have a number of foreign visitors who are anxious to learn from all of you. Take the time to greet them and see what experiences you might be able to share with them.
Given its location near several major population centers on the east coast, Congress in Philadelphia is also a terrific opportunity for supervisors to let staff from their agencies do a one-day trip. Congress is great for those of us who are able to go for four days, but it is also a wonderful experience for non-supervisors who can walk the exhibit floor for only $25 per day. What an incredible way to reward your employees by allowing them to be a part of The Best Show in Public Works.
See you in Philadelphia!