Pride in public works
Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng.
When my son, Adrian, was young, his greatest pleasure, and mine too, was to take him to the public works yard of the municipality for which I worked. A look of amazement was in his eyes as he was able to get into the large equipment used in our operation. He was fortunate not only to be able to play with his Tonka toys but also to imagine what operating the life-size version was like. I'm sure he would have been more impressed with me if I would have told him that I drove a dump truck, as compared to the somewhat boring story I would give him that I was not the operator but supervised people who were. While this explanation disappointed him, I will always remember fondly these moments. The excitement that my son expressed is what we want to have happen across our two nations during National Public Works Week in both small and large communities.
Numerous chapters and communities will be holding events, whether it's in the public works yard or the local malls, to increase the awareness of the important role our staffs play on a daily basis. The value of these activities is even more critical today with the need for public understanding and support for our importance in the community. Resources are still limited due to budget constraints and competition for allocation with police and fire departments, leaving us with the need to market our services to the public in order to get our fair share.
Recently Dr. John Luthy, President of The Futures Corporation, and I hosted a Click, Listen & Learn entitled "Leadership in the New Age of Public Works." John put forward a very interesting concept called "The New Age strategy for leaders in our profession." He set the stage by noting that even though funds are growing more finite since 9/11, the public's thirst for expanded infrastructure continues unabated. This need for expansion, coupled with the continuing deterioration of existing infrastructure, is causing stressed communities to seek leadership, clarity, and direction from local professionals. Because of this, John urges public works leaders to become much more proactive than our reactive state in the past. There has always been a saying that you never think of the Public Works Department until something goes wrong. This must change where not only do we become more proactive, we actually take the forefront in our communities.
No doubt the best opportunity to start this is during National Public Works Week.
National Public Works Week in D.C.
This year and for the first time, our Washington, D.C. office has APWA and National Public Works Week front and center before the U.S. Congress. They have scheduled a week of events, including daily information sessions on different aspects of public works; a "public works showcase" including displays of some of the technologies used to help us run our cities; a reception for members of Congress; and finally, a call to leaders in the U.S. by APWA and other national organizations for more investment in our infrastructure. APWA's 2004 "Top Ten" Leaders will be displayed prominently on Capitol Hill for the week, and P.W. Paws will be visiting Congress to kick off the event. For more information on the events, visit the National Public Works Week on the Hill website at www.apwa.net/OnTheHill.
"Top Ten" award elicits respect
I'm sure you have seen the comment in past "President's Message" columns in the APWA Reporter that the biggest honor we have is the opportunity to phone one of our colleagues and tell them that they have been selected as one of APWA's Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year. In addition to the call, the president, past president, and president-elect present the awards in person during National Public Works Week.
Last year I was fortunate to personally present three of the awards. The one that stands out was Tony Leffin's award ceremony at the City Council Meeting in Maitland, Florida. The council members were so proud of Tony's achievement that they each donned a reflective vest and hat during the recognition speech. This certainly added to the humor of the situation, but to me it showed the high level of respect the community felt for their Public Works Director.
Our opportunity to shine
Please take the opportunity to "show off" your staff and operation to your community. Hopefully the joy through the eyes of a child such as my son many years ago, or the high level of respect of the Maitland City Council, will be something you too will treasure in the future.