New president committed to international awareness, diversity, advocacy and teamwork

Editor's Note: As has been the custom in the past, each new president is interviewed by the APWA Reporter at the beginning of each presidential term. In this manner, presidential plans are laid out, hopes revealed, and observations noted. The following interview was conducted with new president Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng., on July 7, 2003.

Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng., APWA President

First, a brief background on Kalynchuk, who is Senior Consultant, Infrastructure Management and Pavement Engineering, Stantec Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, and has been an APWA member for more than 20 years. He began his career in public works as the Supervisor of Special Projects for the City of Edmonton in 1978, becoming the Supervising Engineer Roads and Streets the following year. During his career he has served as Deputy Director of Public Works and Engineering for Strathcona County, Alberta, and as Deputy Director of Public Works for the District of Matsqui, British Columbia. Prior to accepting his current position at Stantec Inc., Kalynchuk was the General Manager, Planning and Engineering Services for St. Albert, Alberta, for six years.

Kalynchuk did his undergraduate work at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, receiving a Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering. In 1992 he received a Masters of Engineering, specializing in transportation management, from the University of Alberta.

He has been very active in both APWA and CPWA, serving as Region IX Director on the APWA Board of Directors (1997-2003); Member and Chair, APWA Finance Committee (1999-2002); Secretary-Treasurer, CPWA (1997); Executive Committee Member, APWA Product Users and Suppliers Council (1992-1996); Executive Committee Member, APWA Management Practices Committee (1992-1997); Alberta Chapter Delegate, CPWA (1992-1995); and Executive Committee Member, APWA Institute for Administrative Management (1990-1996).

What will your priorities be as APWA President?

Certainly the first priority concerns international awareness. In North America we are affected very much by the global market and global issues. Let's take, for example, the issue of SARS—it affected the registration of our Snow Conference because of the reluctance of people to travel through Toronto. The issue in Canada right now is Mad Cow disease. While it was only found in one cow, it is affecting the economy of the agriculture industry, which in turn affects the economies of the municipalities. So we are being affected by things beyond our scope of practice.

We are also being affected by West Nile virus. In the past, many public works agencies were not responsible for mosquito control, but because of the concern of West Nile, now we are. We truly are part of an international community, and even within public works we have to become more aware of issues that cross jurisdictional boundaries.

During my term I will be attending a public works conference in Australia in October. I will also be visiting the Slovak Republic in March, and plan to meet with the Polish Public Works Association, the Czech Public Works Association and the Hungarian Public Works Association. The highest priority for their countries to date has been the ability to become a member of the European Union. In order for that to occur, they must meet certain minimal standards of service delivery, certainly within the field of sanitation and other public works areas. Consequently, our colleagues in those countries believe that there is some assistance we can provide in that area.

With that said, the Slovak Republic has had an excellent track record in privatizing their public works agencies from the central/state government to privately-run agencies. I believe there may be an opportunity for us to learn from their experiences. As a matter of fact, one of representatives in the Slovak delegation will be making a presentation at Congress in San Diego.

We are also reintroducing the Jennings Randolph International Fellowship Fund, which allows people from our association to travel abroad. I was the last recipient of the fellowship in 1995 when I went to Vietnam and studied urban infrastructure for a month.

Another priority is the issue of diversity. We need to assure that our leadership in APWA is representative of the association's membership. To continue the excellent work of our Diversity Committee, we will have a presidential task force, chaired by Past President Richard Ridings, to explore a number of diversity issues. And we're not just dealing with the issues of gender and ethnicity—we also need to look at the size of agencies represented throughout the organization; age, to make sure we have young leaders active in our leadership; and the balance between public and private sector organizations to make sure we are serving the needs of all members.

We will also be updating the Strategic Plan this year. Again, we will be using a task force approach to ensure broad membership input. Chaired by President-Elect Tom Trice, we want to make sure, through our Strategic Plan, that we are as responsive as we can be to issues facing our members. We will be examining current issues facing the members and APWA as an organization, and then modifying the Strategic Plan to be sure we are on target and poised to address key issues.

Another priority concerns the issue of branding. Last year, we completed basic "brand" research, and this year we are forging ahead by implementing a number of recommendations. Members, as well as those external to APWA, will notice a more consistent image and message, all in line with our goals of APWA as an advocate, APWA as our members' primary gateway for information, and APWA as the "brand name" for credible information on public works. As part of our branding initiative, we are also introducing a couple of dozen APWA merchandise items that members will be able to acquire so that they can be recognized as members of our association.

Next is the issue of advocacy within our two countries. First of all, in Canada the Canadian Public Works Association has developed an advocacy plan, and we want to continue down the path of implementation. And in the U.S., we are planning to retain a firm to assist us in our advocacy efforts on the Hill and with executive agencies.

Homeland security continues to be a front-burner issue. For example, I was recently at the North Carolina Chapter Conference which included an excellent presentation on the bidding process for municipalities. It covered how bidders have access to plans, and how we need to recognize that access to some of our public works information must be dealt with in a more sensitive manner these days. Balancing public access needs and security issues continues to be a priority within our association.

And the last priority relates to public works being a First Responder. As I travel to chapters, I still hear that the fire and police departments are being recognized, but there is a lack of recognition by the elected officials and the public that public works is a critical part of the First Responder community. We are making progress at the national level, with "public works" now being mentioned in the same breath as police, fire and emergency medical, but we all need to continue to emphasize the important role we play in homeland security.

Where do you see APWA going during your tenure?

Certainly, I'd like to see continued growth in our number of members. Right now our association is at 27,000 strong. I would hope with our new Strategic Plan that we would focus on 30,000 and map out how we will get there. Also, I'd like to get more large cities and agencies involved, in particular with the increased activity of the Urban Forum.

We'll see an increase with our educational offerings, in particular with Click, Listen & Learns. In the 2002-2003 fiscal year we reached 11,265 viewers at 1,461 sites. Our target in the next fiscal year is 17 Click, Listen & Learns, and we are planning an additional staff member to the Education Department. I'd also like to see growth in the publications we offer. Our continued advocacy efforts will also be important this year with the TEA-21 reauthorization work in Washington, and promoting the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure in Canada.

The last area of continued growth concerns our accreditation program. Over the past year, we have seen a surge of interest and participation in our agency self-assessment and accreditation program. We now have 12 agencies in the United States and Canada accredited, and there are another 37 agencies in the process.

What is the greatest benefit you see in being a member of APWA?

First of all are our educational offerings. Second are advocacy efforts. Third is the opportunity for networking. As an example of networking, we have 6,381 subscribers to our various InfoNOW Communities. Also, our APWA website at averages 80,000 visits per month. Finally, our two national conferences and our chapter conferences provide great opportunities for networking.

Is there any area of public works in which APWA should become more involved?

The issue of urban sprawl is a real challenge, and I believe we should be more involved with our planners in various communities. We need to deal with "growth management" and balancing and maintaining existing assets with demand of growth. Unfortunately, we aren't growing the infrastructure at the same pace as the growth of our communities, and that has become a serious challenge. I was fortunate in my last job in government—I supervised both the Public Works and Planning Departments, which gave me that additional perspective on the issue.

If there was one major public works problem you could solve, which would it be?

That would be public support for infrastructure issues. It is our responsibility to advocate for infrastructure funding solutions, to make sure that the citizens are educated in the benefit for investing in infrastructure.

Are there any other needs facing our profession today?

Just a couple. Within government and communities nowadays there is an attitude of "no new taxes," and I believe this is an issue we must face. With our decaying infrastructure and the growth of new infrastructure, we need new revenue sources.

The other issue is, again, the need to have public works recognized as a First Responder. I have an example as to what this means at the local level. In the City of St. Albert the Police Department wanted an additional police officer for drug control. So being a smart police chief, the chief came to council and asked for two officers, hoping to get one. The council said, "Well, we'll give you three, you can do a much better job." The Fire Department requested in their budget eight additional firefighters. Initially it was recommended that they get none because of budget constraints. Well, on budget night the gallery was filled with firefighters and they ended up getting four. When I asked for additional staff for Public Works, I was told, "Just become more efficient."

The issue here is that we have to get people to realize that we are indeed First Responders, and that we need additional staff to provide the required level of service.
How do you intend to accomplish all of your goals without being overwhelmed?

Well, there are two key issues. One is focusing on a plan—I think that's very important. And the second one is the use of a team approach, and that would include the Board of Directors, the staff, and the volunteer leadership, all being part of what I call "Team APWA." I firmly believe in teamwork, and I know we are going to work as a team to advance the priorities of our association for the membership throughout North America.