San Diego Congress: an International Affair Extraordinaire

Jerry Fay, P.E., National Program Director of Public Works, HDR, Phoenix, Arizona, and Immediate Past Chair, APWA International Affairs Committee

Jimmy Foster, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Plano, Texas, and Chair, APWA International Affairs Committee

The San Diego/Imperial Counties Host Chapter did an outstanding job in making the San Diego Congress a truly international affair. The opening ceremony included flags from Canada and Mexico and the playing of these countries' national anthems. The 45 registered members from our partnership with the Asociacion de Municipios de Mexico (AMMAC) represented the largest group ever in attendance from Mexico. Because the Congress location was so close to Mexico, a special registration form in Spanish was made available to AMMAC, who coordinated the registration of the Mexican delegates. Also, there were two representatives from our partnership with the Slovak Public Works Association (SPWA). Due to a scheduling conflict with the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA) meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, only two of our Australian friends from the IPWEA were able to attend the Congress, as opposed to their normal large delegation.

From left to right at the International Guests Reception: Luis Gerardo del Muro Caldera, Public Works Director; Ricardo Magdaleno Rodriguez, Mayor; and Eduardo Lopez Guzman, Secretary of Public Services, all from the City of Aguascalientes, Mexico; and Julio Fuentes, Senior Traffic Engineer, City of San Diego

The host chapter was able to get several local consulting firms to sponsor the Second Annual International Guests Reception, and the attendance was significantly larger than last year. Numerous international guests, including elected officials from two cities in Mexico, enjoyed the excellent food and networking. APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk addressed the reception attendees and said if possible he would accept every international invitation he receives regardless of whether or not the country has a Starbucks.

The highlight of the Congress for the International Affairs Committee (IAC) was the first-ever simultaneous translation of selected educational sessions, including all of the General Sessions, into Spanish. The Congress program also had a special section in Spanish to assist our Mexico delegates. Julio Fuentes, from the host chapter, was responsible for the outstanding work done on the session translations and was instrumental in developing the International Reception. Feedback from those attending the translated sessions was very positive and we will again be asking the APWA Board of Directors for their financial support in Atlanta. The Atlanta Host Committee has already designated someone to coordinate their international activities with the IAC.

What is now becoming a tradition at Congress is the joint IAC/Diversity Committee Session. This year the session was "Cultural Etiquette in the Workplace." The speaker was Jolie Andre from Polished Professions. The session discussed how cultural differences can torpedo an otherwise successful interaction with a coworker. The IAC and the Diversity Committee have already agreed to another joint session in Atlanta in 2004. Expected to speak is Cameron Berkuti, currently on leave of absence from La Mesa, California, who will speak on rebuilding the infrastructure in Iraq.

The IAC also presented sessions on: "Public Works Issues in the Slovak Republic," that described the unique ways Eastern Europe provides infrastructure services that were previously provided by a national government under communism; "The Flood One Year Later: Czech and Slovak Flood Solutions," that dealt with the recovery from major floods that flashed through the Czech and Slovak Republics in August 2002; and "A New Airport for Mexico City," that examined the environmental and political challenges for finding a suitable site for a new airport for Mexico City. Also, the new Chair of the IAC, Jimmy Foster, facilitated a roundtable on "The International Exchange of Information and Ideas."

Members of the International Affairs Committee at their Congress meeting. From left: Kaye Sullivan, Staff Liaison; Jimmy Foster, Chair; Jerry Fay, Immediate Past Chair; and Marty Basta.

The IAC meeting at the Congress was very well attended with representatives from all task forces, AMMAC, IPWEA and SPWA, and an ambitious work program was adopted and presented to the APWA Board of Directors at their Annual Business meeting at the conclusion of the Congress. One of the key areas of effort for 2004 is the reinstitution of the Jennings Randolph International Fellowship Program, funded through the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute. The program will provide funding to enable APWA members to present public works/infrastructure-related papers at APWA's international partnership countries' public works conferences. Detailed information has been provided on this program in the APWA Reporter and is available on the APWA website. Another significant item in the work program is the selection and completion of the translation of APWA publications into Spanish. The IAC is working very closely with AMMAC to ensure the quality of this effort.

The IAC will again be submitting articles and facts of international interest to the Reporter and developing sessions of international interest for the Atlanta Congress. Besides the joint sessions with the Diversity Committee, we are also looking at sessions on the Three Gorges Project in China, mass transit in Seoul, Korea, and Quality Certification for Municipal Services in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Other items included in the work program are the continued participation in reciprocal educational sessions with other international organizations and the attendance of APWA members at our international partners meetings. Where possible, President Kalynchuk will lead the APWA delegation as has been done by past presidents.

The IAC will continue to solicit chapters for financial support to assist delegates from our partnering countries to attend Congress. This year five chapters donated $4,000. The IAC will also continue to send members to the AMMAC, IPWEA and SPWA conferences.

In closing, the IAC would like to thank the APWA Board of Directors and all the APWA members who have supported and participated in the international activities. It is essential for APWA to work closely with our current international partners while expanding our relationships throughout the world.

To reach Jerry Fay, call (602) 508-6623 or send e-mail to; to reach Jimmy Foster, call (972) 769-4128 or send e-mail to

IPWEA International Public Works Conference

Peter Taylor
Chief Executive Officer
Toowoomba City Council
Toowoomba Village Fair, Queensland, Australia
Immediate Past National President, IPWEA

The biennial conference of the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA) was held in Hobart, the capital city of the island state of Tasmania, from 24th to 28th August 2003. Hobart Lord Mayor, Rob Valentine, and Conference Chairman, Ron Sanderson, and his hard-working committee welcomed more than 480 delegates and 145 partners in the warm surrounds of the Wrest Point Casino and Convention Centre. Outside gale force winds raged and torrential rains caused flash flooding throughout the state. By Tuesday morning, Mt Wellington, which dominates the city's landscape, was capped with fresh snow.

Although small by APWA Congress standards, attendance at the IPWEA Conference represents almost 25 percent of the Institute's membership. Delegates from the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji and Christmas Island ensured that the conference's "International" title was not just an idle boast.

The theme of the conference was "Back to Engineering." This was a quite deliberate attempt by the conference committee to have presenters and delegates alike focus on the core business of public works engineering. During the last decade or so there have been many other issues that have seen the de-engineering of some public works organizations at local and state government levels. The committee thought that it was time that we got back to the basics of what public works engineering is all about. The resulting program of presentations, forums, and technical tours was both comprehensive and true to the theme.

The main topics were: asset management; risk management; leadership in engineering; sustainability; emergency management; plant and fleet management; and a good cross-section of papers on the technical aspect of roads, water supply, waste management, stormwater, and customer service. Overall, there were six keynote addresses in plenary sessions and 80 other presentations in four concurrent streams.

APWA notable, Mark McCain, gave two brilliant keynote addresses: Back to Public Works Engineering through Leadership and Meeting the Public Works Challenges of Sept. 11, 2001: World Trade Center.

To quote from Mark's first paper:

"The issues of leadership within the public works industry go beyond the traditional scales of attempting to repair or construct the major components of the infrastructure, yet the leadership issues need to address topics to include:

  • Developing the engineers of tomorrow
  • Nurturing the professional growth of the existing work force
  • Identification and implementation of institutional research and development programs
  • Creating a customer base of local government support for future capital infrastructure expansion projects
  • Assisting the national leadership in defining, presenting and implementing public works infrastructure related issues, and
  • Establishing a global vision for the future for community, industry and a nation."

Mark's identification of these issues in the United States illustrated the similarity of issues facing public works professionals the world over. Each of his dot points recurred on many occasions throughout the conference-whether in formal presentations or forums, or during networking with colleagues during tea and lunch breaks (I will return to some of these issues later).

Mark's second address evoked many memories for those of us who attended the APWA Congress in Philadelphia in 2001, including the examples of outstanding leadership displayed at the Congress in simply keeping the Congress on track while others were called to more important duties, and others and their partners organized fundraising for emergency workers and their families. The leadership role of the public works professional in emergency management was highlighted by the decision to hand over the control of the recovery operations at the World Trade Center in New York to public works after just 70 hours, despite all of the potentially competing requirements of crime scene, international terrorism, victim identification, and so on. This is in stark contrast to the situation in Australia, where state police are normally the disaster management commanders-albeit in close consultation with public works and other emergency management professionals.

Although there were relatively few under-30s engineers at the Hobart conference, those who were there gave us older members of the profession a feeling of confidence that the future is in good hands even though we may have to work hard to ensure that there are enough youngsters choosing engineering for the university studies. Prize-winning papers Thames Coast River Flood Hazards by Greg Ryan from the Waikato Regional Council in New Zealand and Stormwater Reuse by Justin Boocock from Brighton Council in Tasmania illustrated graphically the sense of involvement and fulfillment that public works engineering can deliver, and that we really can make a difference.

Slightly older, Bob Fredman, from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland on mainland Australia, challenged us to Make Your Mark. Bob has demonstrated great engineering leadership in his community by ensuring that engineering projects are not dull and boring. By applying imagination and energy, he has paid particular attention to the aesthetic aspects of engineering design so that the end products are functional, attractive and complementary to their community, environmental and historical contexts.

Asset management and the requirements of GASB 34 were recurring issues in Mark McCain's addresses as they were throughout the conference. The closing technical session of the conference was a plenary forum on Future Directions in Asset Management: Should Asset Management Plans Be Compulsory? Asset management has been the focus of considerable attention by all levels of government in Australia and New Zealand for a decade or more. In some jurisdictions, asset management plans are mandatory. The bible of asset management, The International Infrastructure Management Manual, developed jointly by the IPWEA and our New Zealand colleagues, Ingenium, has been instrumental in ensuring that local government public works engineers have led the way in asset management. But just as some in the U.S. have been slow to comply with the requirements of GASB 34, so have some in Australia and New Zealand. After some lively and healthy discussion and debate, the forum remained divided about whether asset management plans should be mandatory. On the other hand, there was unison on the view that there was an urgent need for consistency in the approach to asset management across all jurisdictions in Australia and that the IPWEA should take a leading role (in concert with other like-minded professional bodies) to make it happen.

National IPWEA President, Ross Moody, closed the technical sessions of the Hobart International Public Works Conference, by proclaiming it an outstanding success and announcing that Warren Roberts from Melbourne would succeed him as President in October.

All work and no play can make engineers dull people, so the technical sessions were complemented by superb day excursions for partners, imaginative social functions by night, and post-conference tours to showcase Tasmania's old and new engineering heritage.

Chris Champion, Peter Taylor, Keith Wood and friendly Titanic table decoration. (The Keith H. Wood Medal for 2003 was awarded to former National President Jack Riddiford.)

Monday night's convict theme reflected Tasmania's early European role as a remote convict settlement. Some of us finished up in the stocks for our troubles or on the stage of the City Hall for the entertainment of others who were fortunate enough to remain at their tables. On Tuesday night, His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania, Sir Guy Green and Lady Green, graciously received all delegates and partners in the magnificent ballroom of Government House. The Conference Committee capped off the social program on Wednesday night by recreating the scene from the Titanic, complete with the ship's bow and icebergs.

Hobart will be a hard act for Adelaide, South Australia, to follow in 2005-but they will do it. All of our APWA friends will be made very welcome.

Peter Taylor can be reached at


Success within a culture does not guarantee success cross-culturally
Japan and the United States have dramatically different cultures. In Japan, the individual is much less important than groups or society. In the United States, individuals are as important as groups or society as a whole. In Japan, people try not to stand out, whereas in the United States individuality and assertiveness are valued and respected. Likewise, age, experience and higher status are respected in Japan, but in the United States, true opinions are expressed openly.

The paragraph below presents a cross-cultural exchange that might take place between Japanese and Americans in Japan. Consider what might be expected to happen.

Although he is just now 30 years old, Arnold has risen rapidly in his public works profession. Having received his master's degree only five years earlier, Arnold is now Assistant Director of Public Works for a fairly large city in the Midwest. One of the reasons for his success is his no-nonsense, aggressive style. Arnold has the opportunity to travel to Japan to represent his city in the International Sister Cities Program.

What might happen-and why-in Arnold's initial meeting with the representatives of the Japanese Sister City? Potentially, what are Arnold's expectations and what will be his behavior? How might the Japanese representatives react? Following is a possibility.

Arnold would expect to meet his Japanese counterparts, shake hands, and get down to business. He would probably expect to achieve all his business goals quickly and efficiently, just as he has done in the United States. The Japanese counterparts, on the other hand, would be quite surprised and perhaps even insulted that their American Sister City sent so young a representative. Furthermore, the Japanese, whose social and business style is indirect, would be surprised at Arnold's aggressive style. They would not assume that business could be handled that quickly, without additional discussion within their own ranks. The meeting would probably fail unless Arnold learned the business styles of his hosts very quickly.

Success within a culture does not guarantee success cross-culturally.

Cultural Proverbs:

"Ask the experienced rather than the learned." - Arabic Proverb

"Deceive the rich and powerful if you will, but don't insult them." - Japanese Proverb

"If you wish good advice, consult an old man." - Romanian Proverb