Y'all come back next time!
Atlanta Congress packs 'em in
R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter
"For those of you like me, who reside in the great Southeast, let me translate Tom Trice's opening remarks," APWA President-Elect Bob Freudenthal told attendees at the First-Timers Meeting. "Tom says, 'Hey. Y'all come back next time!'"
Southern-flavored sentiments like that one offered just a hint of the Georgia charm on display as APWA held the 2004 International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Atlanta this past September. Another popular, and slightly more colorful, hint at the locale was "Hunker Down You Hairy DAWGS!"—a reference to the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team that elicited plenty of smiles throughout the week in educational sessions and on the exhibit floor.
The city's hospitality was the backdrop to an exceptional show at the Georgia World Congress Center, and seemed to rub off on the thousands of enthusiastic attendees. As always, the Best Show in Public Works held up its end of the bargain, delivering a global showcase for the groundbreaking equipment, services, and technologies that are changing our industry. Attendees had access to the latest thinking and best management practices in the public works world today, as more than 200 field experts, faculty members, and consultants shared their knowledge and vision in educational, technical and personal development sessions. In addition, 450 companies participated on the exhibit floor, creating the equivalent of a 100,000 square-foot public works shopping mall covering everything from wrenches to program management services.
In addition, this particular Congress emphasized the "international" in the name of our annual event. Along with members and guests from the U.S. and Canada, visitors from Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Slovakia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands attended the 2004 Congress. "You must be pleased with the outcome of the Congress," Ross Vincent, Chief Executive of INGENIUM, New Zealand, wrote to staff several days after Congress ended. "In my view it was great. And the scale of the Congress was amazing for me, with thousands of registered participants and six acres of trade displays. It was a major event."
A major event, indeed. Let's take a look at some of the highlights, beginning with the pre-Congress activities and wrapping up with the Annual Banquet, where the entertainment managed to put the "mock" back in democracy.
The Big Three
As usual, a number of pre-conference events took place during the two days prior to the official opening of Congress on Sunday, September 12. On Friday and Saturday, APWA's nine Technical Committees met for discussion of hot industry topics and planning for the coming year's work program. This annual meeting at Congress is one of just two such opportunities during the year for the committee members to meet face-to-face and discuss the issues that affect APWA's membership (the other coming at the Combined Meeting typically held in March in Kansas City). For the benefit of our members, APWA has posted full information regarding the specific activities and minutes from each committee meeting at the following web address: www.apwa.net/About/PET/.
Four excellent pre-Congress workshops were also presented on Saturday, including an in-depth look at APWA's self-assessment process conducted by Ann Daniels, APWA's Director of Technical Services; a leadership workshop presented by Dr. Lew Bender of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville; and a workshop on stormwater funding options conducted by the authors of a related article appearing in the September APWA Reporter (p. 42).
The fourth workshop featured representatives of the "Big Three" automakers who provided an insider's look into new and emerging technologies in public fleets. On hand were Scott Schramm, Government Applications Manager for the Chrysler Group of the DaimlerChrysler Corporation; Dr. Arun Jaura, Technical Leader of Hybrid Vehicle Development for Ford Motor Company; and Randy Queen, Account Executive at General Motors Corporation. Frankly, it's just not every day that you can sit down for a Q&A with representatives from the Big Three, and it was interesting to hear their take on the diesel, hybrid and fuel cell technologies. "Fuel cells promise improved efficiencies, but hydrogen-powered hybrids offer a near-term cost-effective bridge to fuel cell technology," Jaura said.
Other pre-Congress activities included a reception for the Emerging Public Works Leaders, an Education Advisory Committee meeting, and of course a golf tournament arranged by the Georgia Host Chapter. Not to mention the myriad behind-the-scenes preparations seldom seen by most attendees, including the exhibitor move-in (run as smoothly as usual), the Get Acquainted Party setup, and the time-intensive stuffing of the registration bags.
In addition, the House of Delegates met on Saturday for its annual meeting, with 52 delegates, 17 alternates and 4 guests in attendance representing 62 chapters. According to Kaye Sullivan, APWA Deputy Executive Director, all nine regional directors and three at-large directors were in attendance during a portion of the meeting. "The House appreciated the President bringing comments on his work with chapters the past year; the President-Elect discussing his vision for the next year; and the Executive Director providing information on the ongoing activities of the association," Sullivan said. "The House especially thanks the regional directors for their full participation in the entire day's session."
Sullivan continued by adding that the House heard reports from staff on insurance issues and the premium payment schedule; Washington activities and National Public Works Week on the Hill; and the national level Technical Committee interaction with the chapter Technical Committees. The Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum presented a report on their activities; the Education Committee discussed strengthening chapter educational events; and the Diversity Committee presented a report on their accomplishments over the past year, as well as the Board of Directors' statement on inclusiveness in the membership and leadership of APWA. The House also received information about the 2005 Chapter Leaders' Training program.
Sing an Australian song!
The eighth annual First-Timers Meeting, organized by APWA's Diversity Committee, got Congress officially underway on Sunday the 12th. Vanessa Conrad, Manager of Administration for the City & County of San Francisco, California, and outgoing chair of APWA's Diversity Committee, facilitated the meeting. Also addressing the large number of first-time Congressgoers were new APWA President Tom Trice, President-Elect Bob Freudenthal, Executive Director Peter King, members of the Diversity Committee, and several other leaders of the association.
"I would like to tell you about my first experience at Congress," Trice said. "It happened so long ago that I can hardly remember everything that happened. But what I do remember is the excitement of being a part of that particular Congress. I was pretty young at the time. My wife and I ventured to Portland, Oregon, for the APWA Congress. Jimmy Carter was the President in 1979, and I can remember having my picture taken with the cardboard cutout of President Carter on the exhibit floor. There were sessions on how to maintain your fleet and how to properly manage your employees. There was a Get Acquainted Party and an entertainment night. I went to the Michigan Chapter dinner and attended all the General Sessions. And the thing that was so cool, I could not believe that all this was happening at one place at one time.
The First-Timers Meeting provided plenty of opportunities for Congress newcomers to begin the networking process.
"Events are very similar today," he continued, "and you have the same opportunity that I did twenty-five years ago to take advantage of all this. I've been doing this now for twenty-five of the last twenty-six Congresses. I missed one Congress because my city changed its policy when they decided that they would not fund out-of-state travel. That's when I thought: Why would I want to reduce my ability to work, my ability to problem-solve, and my ability to enhance myself? This was not about the City of Royal Oak. It was about the education necessary for me to be successful. This is an investment, not an expense. And so for the past ten years I have invested my own money to come to these Congresses so I could have the increase in value. Sometimes you have to do it yourself because no one else is going to do it for you."
Peter King brought greetings from the APWA staff and provided helpful hints to the attendees on how to get the most value of their time at Congress. "My one piece of advice for you is to make sure that you do make contact with different people this week," he said. "Collect e-mail addresses, collect business cards, write their name on your hand if you have to, but what you want to leave on Thursday with is a new group of friends, colleagues and professional contacts that you can get in touch with during the year as different issues come up. That's the real value of the conference, in addition to all the sessions."
Larry Lux, President of Lux Advisors, Ltd. out of Plainfield, Illinois, and outgoing member of the Board of Directors, echoed King's sentiments regarding the value of attending Congress. "I know you didn't attend Congress just on a whim, or because your supervisor said to get your tail over to Atlanta and go to Congress," Lux told the attendees. "You probably made that choice because you want to learn more about your profession and you want to advance in your profession. We know you need to find the value in being here, and I think you will your first time."
At that point Lew Bender, Professor at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, conducted the same enjoyable networking exercise that he did last year at the San Diego Congress. All of the attendees were handed strips of paper listing various songs, such as "America the Beautiful." It was then up to the attendees to start humming the various tunes, walk around the room, and find out which group had their particular song.
Like last year, the process made for some very interesting interaction among the participants and was a clever way to begin the networking process. It wasn't without its challenges, though, as before the humming actually began, it was pointed out to Bender that the Australian contingent didn't know any of the songs. "All the Australians don't know the songs?" Bender asked. Then speaking directly to the Aussie contingent near the back of the room, he said, "Australians: Do like you do—fake it! Just kind of, you know, sing an Australian song!"
Following Bender's networking exercise, several members of the Diversity Committee spoke about the General Sessions, the Get Acquainted Party, the chapter dinners and the various luncheons taking place throughout the week such as the Diversity Luncheon and the Canadian Public Works Association Luncheon. President-Elect Bob Freudenthal also discussed the value of walking the exhibit floor. "Those exhibits are there for you," he said. "They are there for you to learn about new products, hopefully develop new relationships, get some new information, and find out what is out there for you to improve what you do for a living."
Sign me up again
"Enthusiastic," "dynamic" and "go-getters" were all terms used to describe the twenty-four participants in the Emerging Public Works Leaders Forum held during Congress. From their participation in networking and career sessions designed especially for them, to General Sessions and an APWA Scavenger Hunt for public works leaders and information, to the educational sessions and the Grand Banquet, these first-time Congress attendees reported a busy and exciting week.
According to Ann Daniels, APWA Director of Technical Services and coordinator of the Emerging Leaders program, "supportive," "knowledgeable" and "caring" were the rave reviews given the twenty-four volunteer Mentors during the Forum. "Some Mentors reporting learning as much as the Leaders about the work of the association," Daniels noted. "All reported feeling rejuvenated and excited about their choice of a career field."
"Yes, yes, yes" and "Sign me up for next year" were the responses from Leaders when asked if the program should continue and from Mentors already committing to serve again next year, Daniels added.
Stand by your man...or not
The Opening General Session of the 2004 Congress began with the presentation of the colors of the United States and Canada by the Color Guard of the Corp of Cadets from North Georgia College and State University. The audience remained standing to listen to Kellee Haas, accompanied by the Air Force National Guard Band, sing the national anthems of the two countries.
As usual, it was a packed house at the Opening General Session.
After that, it was time to bring out President Dwayne Kalynchuk for his final presidential address to the attendees. Only one problem: Kalynchuk could not be found. After a short while—enough to keep everyone in suspense—a member of the video crew came out on stage announcing there were some "technical difficulties" that prevented Kalynchuk from joining us.
About that time, on the large screens throughout the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom, Kalynchuk appeared being interviewed by "Barry" King (brother of Larry) at CNN Center, virtually next door to the convention center. While the "interview" appeared to be legitimate, with Kalynchuk discussing various public works and infrastructure issues, the laughs it generated made clear that it was all set up in advance. For example: At one point someone "called in" a request for Kalynchuk to sing "Stand By Your Man." Barry King repeated the request, saying, "Yes, Dwayne, how about it—could you sing 'Stand By Your Man'?" After a short pause for effect, Kalynchuk replied in a very deadpan manner, "Absolutely not, Barry."
Following the interview, the video showed Kalynchuk rushing across the street to the convention center, rejecting coffee from Dunkin' Donuts in favor of his beloved Starbucks blend, and finally arriving on stage at the Murphy Ballroom to much applause. "Sorry I'm late," he joked with the audience. "But I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to talk about public works. And I just couldn't resist the chance to pop in and get a fresh cup of coffee!" To see excerpts from the Kalynchuk/King interview, along with video highlights from the entire week of Congress, just go to www.apwa.net/media/congress/2004/happyface.wmv.
Kalynchuk introduced the 2004 Emerging Public Works Leaders and their Mentors, as well as the co-chairs of the Georgia Host Chapter: Claudette Campbell, Executive Director for the Utilities Protection Center and John Griffin, Executive Director of Underground Water Utilities, City of Atlanta. Following welcoming words from Campbell and Griffin, as well as from Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Kalynchuk returned to the podium. "In my time as a member of the Board of Directors and as president, I have had the great honor of visiting 40 of the 67 chapters of APWA," he told the attendees. "Every chapter and branch has impressed me with the services they provide to their members and the great part they play in our APWA family. I personally know the sacrifices volunteers make for APWA, and I am humbled by the number of people we have who are willing to step up to the plate to serve in our organization on a local and national level."
The Opening General Session of this particular Congress was also significant in that it included the official rollout of APWA's branding initiative, where one of Kalynchuk's final acts as president was to introduce our new logo and "look" (see "It's a Brand New Day for APWA," October issue, page 8, for more information on the branding initiative). After introducing the new logo and tag line ("Your Comprehensive Public Works Resource"), Kalynchuk finished by saying, "The APWA brand is strong, but it is our job to make it even stronger and more recognizable. With your help, I know this change will be exciting and return dividends to APWA in the future."
Following the introduction of the Board of Directors, Kalynchuk turned the presidential gavel over to incoming President Tom Trice. "It has been an honor to serve as your president and represent this worthwhile and important association," Kalynchuk said. "Thanks to all who have helped make this a wonderful year that I will never forget."
|President Tom Trice (left) and Past President Dwayne Kalynchuk during the traditional passing of the presidential gavel|
Trice discussed the importance of staying focused on our members and delivering the services that they want and need. "We will continue to spread the word that APWA is the premier organization in the public works field," he said. "And then we will back it up with top quality in all that we do. This focus will not only keep our members involved, it will increase APWA's national recognition and authority. By sending this strong message to every man and woman involved in public works we will encourage them to join with us in membership to secure the future of the public works profession."
Trice finished by discussing the value of attending the Atlanta Congress. "We come together this week to hear from experts in our field on how to meet the challenges of managing modern, sophisticated public works operations," he said. "We typically do this with fewer resources than we need. And we face new challenges, such as our role in homeland security, with a typical 'public works can do' attitude.
"But despite new challenges," he continued, " the roads still need to be maintained, growth needs to be accommodated, water needs to be kept clean, traffic lights need to work, crosswalks need to be safe, snow needs to be moved and citizens need to be safe. All of this is public works and we know it. This week, you have the opportunity to share with others how you manage your operation, and learn how they manage theirs. We hope your Congress experience provides you with the educational sessions and the product information you need to help you excel in service to your community."
"An extraordinary strength in all of us"
I'm guessing that 99% of the folks in the audience who listened to Opening General Session keynote speakers Dr. Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan would never consider doing the things they have done, including BASEjumping from the highest cliff in the world. Nevertheless, their message of overcoming personal boundaries, facing fear, embracing change and pursuing our dreams proved inspiring to many members of the audience.
For the uninitiated (as I was prior to their session), BASE is an acronym for Building, Antenna, Span (or bridge) and Earth (or mountain), and thus represents the fixed objects from which BASEjumps are made. Singleman, an Australian who is a world record-holding extreme sportsman, medical doctor, professional adventurer, and internationally-acclaimed documentary filmmaker, has made a number of such jumps over the past 15 years. He made world headlines in 1992 when he jumped (with a parachute) from the Great Trango Tower (20,000 feet) in Pakistan. BASEClimb—the film he made about the adventure—screened in 127 countries to over 200 million people. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the film won 21 international awards, set new standards in its category and became National Geographic's top-selling adventure documentary.
Between 2000 and 2002, Singleman trained his wife, Heather Swan, to climb and BASEjump so she could make a world record attempt. Swan, a corporate executive and mother of two who "had never been camping outside a caravan park," committed herself to one of the most extreme personal quests imaginable: to climb and BASEjump the highest cliff in the world.
Dr. Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan signed books for the attendees following their inspiring presentation.
"I heard Glenn say over 100 times that 'anyone who could stand on a chair, jump off and land upright has the physical ability to BASEjump the highest cliff in the world—the only things holding us back are mental barriers,'" Swan said. So when Singleman was told about a cliff higher than the one he jumped, it was Swan who said, "Here's a chance to prove your theorytrain me and together we'll climb and BASEjump this new cliff and you can make BASEclimb 2." Thus began a three-year-long journey that at one point nearly cost Swan her life (due to an incorrectly-attached harness while bungee jumping in New Zealand) but taught her about the strength of the human spirit—"an extraordinary strength in all of us that only shows itself in extraordinary circumstances," she said.
The footage of their jumps—particularly Singleman's from the Great Trango Tower—was consistently fascinating, and it was obvious that it left many in the audience either stunned, deeply moved, or a little of both. And there's no doubt that many could relate to the powerful metaphors represented by their adventures—overcoming fear, pursuing our dreams, and achieving the impossible. But after watching all that footage and when the lights came up, I was really glad to just be sitting in a chair.
P.W. Paws: the next Jack Nicklaus?
Following the presentation from our keynote speakers, it was time for the attendees to move on to one of the most exciting events of each Congress: the Exposition Grand Opening. "The equipment has been moved in, the computers are hooked up, the carpet has been laid and the exhibitors are in their booths—ready to talk with you about how they can make your jobs easier and improve the services you deliver to your communities," President Trice said.
There's always plenty of activity on the exhibit floor.
Plenty of folks wore comfortable shoes and brought a pocketful of business cards, and it was a good thing, too—this place was huge, and there were plenty of manufacturing reps to visit with. From coatings to environmental services, from ground maintenance to sweepers, virtually all the services were represented to help public works professionals solve their problems back home.
P.W. Paws proved to be quite the ladies man, er, tiger on the exhibit floor.
P.W. Paws, APWA's nine-foot-tall mascot, was also on hand to keep attendees and exhibitors amused on the exhibit floor. And you might not believe it, but Paws is quite the golfer. After providing moral support to the attendees during the daily prize drawing at the APWA Central booth and then meandering around the floor giving hugs and shaking hands, Paws came across Duke's Root Control booth, which featured a 10-foot-long putting carpet, complete with sand trap and water hazard. The exhibitor at Duke's booth saw the golfing gleam in Paws' eyes, and handed over the putter.
After a couple of practice swings, Paws stepped up and addressed the ball. He took a couple of waggles—Paws was putting on quite a show since a large crowd stopped to check out the action—and then struck the ball. The ball missed both the water and the sand and went straight into the hole, which elicited cheers from attendees and exhibitors alike. For P.W. Paws, who had never made a putt before, this was his first hole-in-one.
As a little postscript to this story, the next day P.W.'s alter ego went back to Duke's booth to try his own hand at the putting carpet. He missed his lone attempt by a mile.
So many sessions; so little time
The educational sessions at Congress were phenomenal as usual, both in selection and quality. From administrative management, to information systems, to personal enrichment, to traffic operations, virtually every subject in the field of public works was covered. Attendees had over 150 educational sessions, Super Sessions, roundtable discussion groups and pre-Congress Workshops from which to choose.
|Tammy Donahue, Public Works Human Resource Manager, City of Eugene, Oregon, presented "Live Your Dream, Love Your Work, Fulfill Your Passion" on Congress Monday.|
"You'll hear from speakers who will inspire you to do even more when you return to your communities filled with new ideas, knowledge of cutting-edge technologies and how to marshal new resources," Tom Trice said at the Opening General Session. And it's always a nice benefit, of course, that the attendees are given plenty of non-compete time to get on the exhibit floor and then still be able to see the educational sessions that they are interested in.
For those of you who missed certain sessions or were unable to attend this year's Congress, most of the educational sessions (and all of the General Sessions) are available on CD-ROM as either live audio recordings, PowerPoint presentations, or audio CD only. For more information call (800) 679-3646 or go to www.netsymposium.com.
"Gee, Dad, how high would it go?"
Tom Morris, chairman of the Morris Institute for Human Values in Wilmington, North Carolina, brought his high-energy delivery to Monday's General Session. He started off by asking the audience to name the greatest philosophers in history, and for each historical figure that audience members shouted out, Morris tossed Snickers candy bars back at them. While unfortunately I was too far back in the seats to grab a Snickers, it was a fun way to begin the session and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Morris holds Ph.D.s in philosophy and religious studies from Yale University, and for fifteen years served as a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Using the quick humor and energy that led him to be named top professor at Notre Dame for each of those fifteen years, Morris offered the profound words of Plato, Socrates and other great thinkers and interpreted their current relevance to leadership, success, living with change and personal fulfillment.
Morris spent the better part of an hour discussing the following "7 Cs of Success"—seven basic concepts that are essential for meeting life's challenges, culled from the best advice of history's greatest thinkers.
1. A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.
2. A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain the goal.
3. A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.
4. A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.
5. An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we are doing.
6. A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.
7. A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.
Tom Morris gave a high-energy presentation on Congress Monday.
Speaking about the first of the 7 Cs, Morris said, "The first condition of success, any kind of success, is that we develop a clear conception of what we want. An idea of where we want to go, what we want to accomplish. It should be both clear and specific. Vague goals can't motivate specific behavior. Vague goals can generate vague, positive emotions. But success requires more than fuzzy dreams and warm feelings."
Continuing on, Morris indicated that "the warm fuzzies alone never got anyone very far. Lili Tomlin once recognized this and famously confessed, 'I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.'"
The best part of Morris' presentation, in my view, was when he had the opportunity to be both bittersweet and excruciatingly funny at the same moment, a next-to-impossible challenge for any presenter. Explaining to the audience that it's a shame that adults don't ever take the time to simply lie down in the grass and stare at the clouds and sky—as children do—he went on to say that he made a point of doing exactly that with his young son. Anticipating some kind of poignant or philosophical discussion while lying in the grass, he didn't exactly know how to respond when his son asked, "Gee, Dad, if I did a [insert particular bodily function here], how high would it go?"
PWHS luncheon focuses on infrastructure and lifestyles
This year's Public Works Historical Society-sponsored luncheon included the presentation of the Abel Wolman award to Dr. Keith Revell, author of the book Building Gotham: Civic Culture and Public Policy in New York City, 1898-1938. In his acceptance of the award Dr. Revell stated, "One of the things I realized in the process of writing this book is how much public works history deals with problems of power and community and justice and, consequently, I learned just how much our political discourse has benefited from the ideals and perspectives of the individuals who create public works."
|At the PWHS Luncheon, Dr. Keith Revell (right) received the Abel Wolman award from then-PWHS President (and former APWA President) Jerry M. Fay.|
The luncheon presentation featured Hall Smyth, co-founder of the Chicken&Egg Public Projects, whose goal is to advance public understanding of cultural and technological issues through innovative approach and design. "Hall offered a fascinating glimpse into how Chicken&Egg developed the landmark exhibition 'Me, Myself and Infrastructure: Private Lives and Public Works in America,'" said Teresa Hon, Technical Services Coordinator on the APWA staff. "Through a series of settings evoking everyday places, the exhibit demonstrates the inseparability of our lifestyles and infrastructure and the massive infrastructure that supports the activities that go on there. Even the act of crossing the street is presented as a fundamental public works experience. Hall provided an overview and samples of the educational and marketing applications tied to the exhibit."
Andre Juneau, Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada, was the keynote speaker at the CPWA Luncheon.
Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada speaks at CPWA Luncheon
Congress once again played host to the Canadian Public Works Association's (CPWA) annual luncheon on Monday, September 13. According to CPWA President Ian Neville, nearly 100 Congress delegates took advantage of the event.
International guests from Australia and the Czech Republic were also in attendance. The keynote speaker was Andre Juneau, Deputy Head of Infrastructure Canada, who delivered an address on the current issues and initiatives underway in the department. He stressed a strong, personal commitment towards InfraGuide and the Technology Road Map projects, both of which CPWA has been involved with.
For its work with the InfraGuide project, Juneau presented a Founding Member award to CPWA. In a letter describing the award, Project Director Nancy Schepers noted, "The leadership and commitment of CPWA both as the InfraGuide concept was developed and since then as InfraGuide has carved its niche in the infrastructure community, has been outstanding and deserving of recognition. CPWA continues to be a significant contributor and supporter of InfraGuide."
"Andre Juneau and his staff from Infrastructure Canada are familiar with the vital role public works professionals play in the management and operation of Canada's civil infrastructure, specifically at the municipal level," Neville stated. "It is an honor to have Mr. Juneau here in Atlanta and the CPWA looks forward to continuing our work together."
Better turn off that cell phone
And I thought Tom Morris was high energy. Tuesday's General Session speaker, Craig Zablocki, made Morris look positively calm by comparison.
Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, how often do you see a presenter hunt down an audience member who happens to be talking on his cell phone, take the phone away, and begin speaking on the phone with the other party, playing the entire conversation over the loudspeakers at the same time? (All in good fun, of course.)
|It's probably not a good idea to use your cell phone during a Craig Zablocki presentation. Here, Zablocki talks on a phone that he took from an audience member...and plays the subsequent phone conversation over the loudspeakers.|
A nationally known speaker and consultant, Zablocki has spoken to more than 600,000 people internationally and in all 50 states. His background as a businessman, a teacher in an inner-city school, and a performer in a professional improvisational comedy troupe allows him to speak from a unique perspective. His message to us that Tuesday? Live every day with positive humor (humor that is not at anyone's expense). "Healthy humor increases productivity, motivation, and learning," he said. "Positive humor gives you and your employees a new perspective to deal with transition and change. Learn how taking yourself less seriously allows you to take your job more seriously."
Interestingly, in his presentation Zablocki brought up the unfortunate reality, like Morris had the day earlier, that as adults we lose an important element of ourselves that we had as children, something which doesn't necessarily have to happen. "When you were four years old, you laughed over 400 times a day," he said. "Do you know what your laughs-per-day average is now? It most likely is less...way less. Something happened. We have a hard time enjoying things, problems hit us, we become bummed out. Learning to laugh with others—not at them—is something we all could use more of."
Incidentally, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Craig Zablocki in the staff lunch room following Tuesday's General Session. It was immediately clear that his enthusiasm and interest for helping people live richer, healthier lives was genuine, not merely an act for his presentation. And for the few staff who happened to be sitting at our table, his obvious interest in our assignments and responsibilities at Congress was refreshing. He even led the way in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" for one staff member, even though he'd never met her before.
Anyway, despite the risk of sounding corny, I wanted to share this so you could see the kind of decent, caring people that are selected to speak to our Congressgoers.
Keep your home-field advantage
The Closing General Session on Wednesday, September 15, began with the traditional "passing of the Congress banner" from the current host committee to the following year's host committee. Georgia Chapter President Zachary Davis, along with Congress Host Committee co-chairs Claudette Campbell and John Griffin, were on hand to pass the banner to Minnesota Chapter President Angela Popenhagen, Vice President Tom Colbert, 2005 Host Committee Chair Joel Schilling, and chapter member Brian Lokkesmoe. "In so many ways 2004 has been a benchmark Congress," President Trice said to the audience. "And now, the Best Show in Public Works flag will become a welcome and treasured symbol of all the hard work and innovations of each host chapter."
|Zachary Davis, Claudette Campbell and John Griffin of the Georgia Chapter pass the Congress banner to Angela Popenhagen, Tom Colbert, Joel Schilling and Brian Lokkesmoe of the Minnesota Chapter.|
Following the passing of the Banner, Trice introduced Closing Session speaker David Gardner. Along with his brother Tom, David Gardner founded The Motley Fool, perhaps the world's foremost multimedia financial education company. Since 1996, the Gardner brothers have published four books, each climbing to Business Week's bestseller list. The Motley Fool's nationally-syndicated weekly newspaper column appears in over 200 newspapers, and their radio show airs weekly on more than 145 stations. In addition, their website (Fool.com) currently sports several real-money portfolios, each demonstrating a different style of investing.
In his hourlong presentation, Gardner presented simple yet sound advice on how people can survive economic uncertainty, secure their personal finances, and fortify their portfolios. While his suggestions concerning living below your means (save!) and getting out of credit card debt may appear to be no-brainers, listening to his examples and illustrations of each was very enlightening indeed.
At the Closing General Session, David Gardner of the Motley Fool delivered words of wisdom on investing to the attendees.
Gardner's advice concerning investing in what you know was best illustrated by his story of the Harley-Davidson biker that Gardner and his brother chatted with at a bar some years ago ("I ride Harleys," the biker told them). The biker admitted to investing—and then losing—$5,000 in a business his broker had recommended, even though the biker himself knew nothing of the business. "Did you ever think about investing in Harley-Davidson?" the brothers asked. "No, I didn't," was the biker's response. "Is Harley a company I can invest in?" They responded, "Actually, yes. Harley-Davidson has been an incredibly great company."
And as Gardner pointed out to the audience, Harley-Davidson is up more than 100 times in value since the October 1987 stock market crash. So the biker's $5,000 would have turned into $500,000 if he had bought what he knew, bought what he'd loved, and bought what in many ways he was. "It simply had not occurred to him to align his savings with his knowledge base, to invest inside his circle of competence, to play his own game," Gardner said. "He completely gave away home-field advantage."
They put the "mock" in democracy
The Annual Banquet took place that evening in the plush Centennial Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. President Trice started things off by recognizing the members of APWA's Board of Directors, and then continued by recognizing the Congress Host Committee and all of the Georgia Chapter volunteers, the 2004 Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year, the past national presidents in attendance, the Emerging Public Works Leaders and Mentors, and all of the international guests in the audience.
G'day, eh! President Trice with some Aussies and Canadians during the Banquet.
Next, Trice recognized the following outgoing members of the Board of Directors: Marty Manning (National President, 2002-2003); Christine Andersen (Director-at-Large, Environmental Management); Larry Lux (Director-at-Large, Management and Leadership); and Ben Wolfe (Director, Region IV). Finally, he asked Dwayne Kalynchuk to join him on the stage and thanked him for his enthusiasm and dedication to the association. "One of Dwayne's criteria for visiting a chapter was that a Starbucks be within walking distance of his hotel," Trice joked.
After a tremendous dinner consisting of Georgia Peach Salad, Petit Filet Mignon and Seared Salmon Filet (I cleaned my plate, no problem) and a dessert of Columbian Mousse Dome (this was unbelievably good), President Trice returned to the podium to recognize and thank a number of people for "getting me to this point in my career."
"I would ask that everyone here tonight think about your career and how you got to where you are," Trice said at the end of his speech. "Thank those that helped you and do everything you can to help those that will be our future leaders."
Trice then introduced the Capitol Steps, the comedy team that started as entertainment for a Senate office Christmas party in 1981. Over the past 23 years, the Capitol Steps have recorded 23 albums, and appeared on "Good Morning America," the "Today Show," "Entertainment Tonight," "Nightline," and dozens of times on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." For the past 15 years, they have produced quarterly specials for public radio and have been featured in three national specials for public television.
The Capitol Steps brought down the house at the Banquet. Here, "Bill" and "Hillary" do a comedy routine.
Quite honestly, the five-singer, one-pianist show was hilarious. And no politician was exempt from their parodies and musical satires. From George W. Bush and John Kerry to Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bob Dole, everyone was fair game for their special brand of satirical humor. And the five political satirists took advantage of the presidential election year to take jabs at both political parties and at hot-button issues such as the war in Iraq and the economy.
A skit depicting an exasperated Dick Cheney giving the president his weekly geography lesson got big laughs. So did a gun-toting Donald Rumsfeld sporting an Army helmet. On the other side, an indecisive John Kerry was mocked by Teresa Heinz Kerry joining him in a duet of "Both Sides Now."
In a poke at airport security, a hapless nun was detained and searched while Attila the Hun and Darth Vader were waved through. And in the finale, the Steps formed a chorus and mocked Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's color-coded system of terror alert warning codes in "Glory, Paranoia" set to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Let's do it again next year
"It's hard to believe that this Congress is ending," President Trice had said earlier in the evening. "I hope that your week has been rich and rewarding here in Atlanta filled with learning, ideas, fellowship and of course—fun!"
The learning, ideas, fellowship and fun take place again next year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 11-14. Start making plans now to join your fellow public works professionals for our next Best Show in Public Works.
Kevin Clark can be reached at (800) 848-APWA or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Congress photos by Sandy Small (www.smallshot.com). Congress photo galleries can be viewed, and prints can be purchased, at www.printroom.com/pro/SmallPhoto.