The “première” organization: Larry Nadeau

Editor's Note: This month's Member Profile features Larry Nadeau, Project Manager with the City of Port St. Lucie, Florida, Chair of APWA’s Emergency Management Committee, and 2001 Top Ten recipient.

How did you get involved in public works? I'm originally from Fort Kent, Maine, in the northern part of the state. I spent quite a bit of time in Canada growing up. For about 15 years I was involved in turnkey construction and industrial excavation work in a family-owned business. We employed about 50 people and performed ground excavation and construction projects throughout the state.

In 1988 I moved to southern Maine and applied for the position of Public Works Director for the City of Saco, Maine, and that’s where I landed. I stayed there for nearly 14 years. I had a great staff and enjoyed every minute of it, working to create a noteworthy organization.

In 1998, after having participated in several presidential disaster declarations, Saco was nominated to become a FEMA Project Impact Community. When I had applied for it I thought it was a long shot, but the application came to fruition. We were selected to become the first community in the State of Maine to receive this momentous nomination.

We undertook several needy projects, created construction standard manuals, prepared an all-hazards plan, developed public works mutual aid plans, and built partnerships with anyone who had an interest in assisting us in becoming more disaster resistant. Our Project Impact program gained regional and national recognition, receiving awards and notoriety for these efforts. We received the Region I “Project Impact Community of the Year” in 1999. These efforts led to the development of a GIS concept through a unique partnership with our Finance Department. We joined our talents to further the community’s Asset Management program through the GASB 34 reporting requirement utilizing the modified approach. This was a mutually rewarding cooperative effort.

I have long associated the emergency management family and public works as a kind of a link between each other, because the public works profession responds to emergencies just about daily. In the early 1990s, shortly after I came on board with the City of Saco, I started attending emergency management classes. The more I attended, the more I believed that the link between both was for real. It was soon to follow that I made the connection between being a public works director with the utilization of emergency management concepts as a part of my daily activities, especially in terms of how we could help lessen the burden on our community.

From that point our department’s emergency management training and preparation just took off, and we accomplished some tremendous things. I was extremely fortunate to have a good staff that understood and believed in the same ideals. Many awards came our way. I got involved in some educational activities with the State of Maine’s Emergency Management team, teaching debris management courses and helping any way that I could. I took the challenge of becoming the County’s Infrastructure Coordinator until my departure, and also chaired the County’s Local Emergency Planning Commission for several years. So there was a great deal of interaction, which I believe is where we as public servants need to go. Public works professionals need to become part of the family of emergency responders because ultimately that is what we do daily.

I have participated in countless organizations and committees over the years—local, county, state, and federal—always challenging a next association. And that brings us to what we are doing today with public works and APWA’s Emergency Management Committee, which I have chaired for the last couple of years. With our latest accomplishment, our Memorandum of Understanding with FEMA, we are seeing a new evolution of commitment coming out of the public works profession. It’s the need to understand what’s happening holistically that will make everything so much more worthwhile. All the years of training and learning of emergency management concepts are now falling into place.

In 2001 I happened to meet the Director of Public Works for the City of Port St. Lucie during our Congress in Philadelphia, and we started talking about different things, the potential of this and the potential of that. Shortly thereafter, in the spring of 2002, a job opened up here. I applied, was interviewed, and it came to fruition. There was already a fondness of the area, vacationing in Florida just about every season. The day came when the decision was made that I had to do this move. Now here I am in Port St. Lucie with a public works team of high standards. We manage the Emergency Management program for the city. We are the first accredited public works department in the State of Florida, and I believe we are the first public works department to have two APWA Top Ten recipients.

Favorite Book: Well, I’d be kind of blah if I said any type of FEMA manual. But I do like to pick up the emergency management periodicals. I read the APWA Reporter quite dearly. But tied to a book? Not necessarily. I go from magazines to periodicals—anything that has a degree of bringing forth some additional knowledge I try to pack into as much as I can. Lately, it has been college educational pieces that have been occupying my reading time, as I continue my professional development.

Hobbies and Interests: I’ve dabbled in numismatic and philatelic collectables, doing that for a number of years. I remember starting to collect a few coins when I was 13 years old. There was a competition between a neighbor and myself as to how many buffalo head nickels we could pick up, to see if we could beat each other out. This led to progressive collecting over time. It’s not the biggest coin collection in the world, but it has grown over the years. The same with stamps—I had been collecting and storing them away, and then I thought, well, it’s time to put them together. Again, not the biggest collection in the world, but I enjoy opening it up, taking a look at it, buying one here and buying one there.

Tell us about the City of Port St. Lucie: Port St. Lucie is probably the fastest growing community in Florida, if not the United States. We are at 100,000 population at this present time, a 40 percent buildout. And that is expected to continue at an unprecedented pace. Thirteen or fourteen years ago the population in Port St. Lucie was around 45,000, and in another 20 years it is projected to be in the 200,000 range or more. The growth here is unbelievable, with people moving in daily and hundreds of building permits being issued per month. Port St. Lucie is nestled east of Lake Okeechobee. The Treasure Coast Area is a beautiful area that offers varied interests and pleasures. Centrally located we are well positioned for access to other notable places of interest.

Why do you like being a member of APWA? I believe we have to look at the definition of public works. Public works is a holistic management of community-owned services as well as its infrastructure. Public works involves everything, from the utilities to streets, drainage, engineering, city facilities, buildings, parks, electrical, emergency management, and water distribution. Looking at public works in such a grand, full-scale, and all-encompassing way makes the American Public Works Association an extremely worthwhile organization to be part of. It is an educational association, it is all encompassing, and it serves everyone that you can possibly think of, no matter where they come from.

I can’t say enough about the American Public Works Association. APWA is an organization that stands for its members, stands for our communities, and stands for the services that we are obligated to provide. Ultimately, the rationale for me is because APWA offers this holistic approach—APWA has a piece of everything a public service entity would need to perform.

To me it is like a family business. Here we are, probably a couple thousand miles away, but we can communicate and exchange ideas that are meaningful and can be quickly disseminated across the entire spectrum of this finely woven web of communications, via telephone, electronically, and in person.

We all seem to have the same goal in life. We have the greatest opportunity to meet and talk to people at our chapter meetings and annual conferences. We quickly see that we are all seeking similar information and advice—because we just don’t know it all. And when you have that wealth of knowledge and information available through the 27,000 of us in the association…well, it’s unbelievable the knowledge and potential that we offer. Unbelievable. We are the “première” organization.