NPWW gives recognition to public works profession

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

Many communities in the U.S. and Canada will celebrate National Public Works Week (NPWW) May 19-25 in a variety of ways to enhance the public works profession in the eyes of the public. NPWW is your best opportunity to inform the public about how public works professionals contribute to everyone's health, safety, and comfort. The 2002 theme is "Committed to Our Communities."

Successful activities, many conducted through the cooperative efforts of APWA chapters, have included:

  • Proclamations hailing NPWW signed by governors and mayors
  • Luncheons and dinners with prominent guest speakers discussing public works projects and civic affairs
  • Presentations honoring individuals and agencies
  • Open houses and tours of public works facilities
  • High school students working with public works administrators for a day
  • Parades featuring colorful public works equipment
  • Encouragement of talented young people to prepare for careers in public works
What follows are examples from last year of how some municipalities and chapters celebrated National Public Works Week. Each incorporated a number of the activities described above.

The City of Burlington, North Carolina conducted its NPWW celebration on May 25. Each of the five divisions of the public works department gave tours of their buildings and conducted demonstrations for city council members, retired employees, and the general public.

One such demonstration was provided by Dwight Hensley, supervisor of the Traffic Signs and Markings Division, who demonstrated to the crowd how to install a thermoplastic crosswalk. The Street, Sanitation and Equipment Services Divisions had their trucks and equipment available for anyone who wanted to sit in them or even go for a ride.

The department also set up a display which contained newspaper articles, photos from many years ago, and historical mementos that had been collected over the years. In addition, the department always frames and mounts the NPWW posters, which are on display in the administrative building.

A highlight of each year's celebration is the annual basketball shootout, which involves both two-person teams and individual competitions. "Each division is invited to enter as many people as they want into the competition, and they pay a small amount to do that," said Vicki Holmes, Public Works Administrative Assistant. "The money we collect is always donated to Hospice. It's a fun time because each division tries to outdo the other divisions every year."

According to Holmes, Gary Hicks, Burlington's Public Works Director, has been instrumental in getting the annual celebration escalated into a big event. "He's very involved and interested in this event, and has made a big difference in the celebration in the last few years," she said. "From ordering T-shirts for all employees, having lunch catered, having demos, and inviting city officials, he's made a big difference."

The new Kansas Speedway was the site of the National Public Works Week Celebration/Luncheon organized by the Kansas City Metro Chapter. More than 550 chapter members and guests attended the celebration and luncheon on May 23.

The event began early, and the guests were able to get a close look at both the track and several NASCAR race cars. P.W. Paws, APWA's mascot, was on hand to greet all of the attendees.

Numerous awards were presented during the luncheon, including the Top Ten Public Works Leader of the Year award to Ron Norris, Director of Public Works, City of Lenexa, Kansas; the Diversity Exemplary Practices award to Michele Ohmes, ADA/disABILITY Specialist, City Architect's Office, City of Kansas City, Missouri; and the Private Sector Service award to Ed Mulcahy, Principal, TranSystems Corporation, Kansas City, Missouri. A number of chapter awards and the Student Essay Awards were also presented.

"The event was absolutely successful in every way, from the student essay portion to the food to the speakers," said Tom Rottinghaus, Project Manager with HNTB Corporation and Chair of the 2001 NPWW Committee. "In planning for National Public Works Week celebratory events, our approach is to try to make it new and interesting every year, and at the same time carry the usual things we have, such as the awards and student essays. At the Speedway, we talked about the design that went into the track, and some of the public agency coordination efforts that went into creating the track. It was very much a public-private effort, and we tried to make that clear at the luncheon. Of course, we had pretty good speakers, too."

According to Rottinghaus, the K.C. Metro Chapter's NPWW Committee not only pays attention to the importance of educating people about public works, but also the entertainment aspect of each event. "We try to make it as fun as we can," he said.

The City of Winnipeg, Manitoba, held its Public Works Week Expo 2001 on May 26 at Kildonan Park. Activities included the Public/Private Sector Heavy Equipment Road-eo; aerial bucket-truck rides; children's activity area; extensive "climb on" equipment display; and live entertainment. An estimated 10,000 people participated in the Expo.

Each of the public works departments conducted various demonstrations for the crowd. The Forestry Department demonstrated how to prune trees and showed how trees can be accessed with climbing equipment. Guests were also given a lift in the buckets high above the trees to get a great view of the city and of a nearby river.

"I think it's a great event, it's certainly growing year to year, and in 2002 we're anticipating a crowd of at least 16,000 for the day," said Ken Welchinski, South Area Supervisor, Public Works Department, Street Maintenance Division. "We have about 400 public works professionals who volunteer for the day, so it's great for our organization that we have so many people working to make the Expo happen. Our guests gain a lot of knowledge about our public works activities, and more importantly, they have a great time when they come out."

The only requirement for admission to the Expo is a non-perishable food item that is donated to Winnipeg Harvest. Last year more than 23,000 pounds of food were donated to the charity. "The Expo has become Winnipeg Harvest's largest single event for raising food items," Welchinski said.

In Lake Havasu City, Arizona, featured events included an equipment show-and-tell at three elementary schools; a coloring contest for pre-first to third graders; an employee recognition board listing all public works employees and highlighting 51 employees with over 10 years of service to the department; an employee barbeque with attendance by the vice-mayor and other city department heads; and an exhibit at the county library, which included a model depicting the various public works divisions at work, plus a fact sheet and photographs for each division. In addition, a National Public Works Week proclamation was signed by the vice-mayor.

"We had a very successful 2001 National Public Works Week," said Pete Manderfield, Assistant Public Works Director. "Two popular activities were the equipment show-and-tell for the elementary schools and the coloring contest. Over 800 entries were received and 65 prizes were awarded."

The above are just a few of the many celebratory events that were conducted last year during National Public Works Week. We'd love to hear how you are planning to celebrate NPWW in 2002. Just go to the National Public Works Week website ( and click on "Tell us about your NPWW outreach."

"How To" guide will help
APWA headquarters is providing chapters with material to help publicize NPWW. A "How To" guide for planning your National Public Works Week is being sent to public works departments across the U.S. and Canada (if you haven't received yours in the mail, please contact us at 816-472-6100 to request one, or go to In addition, APWA marketing staff are working with world-renowned illustrator Douglas Fraser on the 2002 NPWW poster, which will be available for purchase in early February.

A major highlight of NPWW will be the disclosure of the "Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year" for 2002. A panel of knowledgeable judges will examine the accomplishments of the nominees who have contributed so much to the entire public works field. They will narrow the nominations down to the ten winners, who represent all public works officials.

Individual ceremonies will be held for the winners in their home towns, at which they will receive attractive plaques. APWA will release the winning names and information of their accomplishments to newspapers, magazines, radio, and television stations. A feature article announcing the winners will appear in the May issue of the APWA Reporter.

"National Public Works Week has gotten stronger and bigger than ever, and has the full support of the association," said Jon Dilley, Manager of Marketing and Graphic Design and the coordinator of NPWW promotional activities at APWA's headquarters. "National Public Works Week provides a great opportunity to inform the public that public works professionals are doing an important job and doing it well."

If you have questions regarding the promotion of National Public Works Week, please contact Jon Dilley at 816-472-6100 or at