Congress: A "Top 40" to choose from

Brenda G. Herrman
Director of Public Works
City of Hays, Kansas
Member, Congress Program Review Committee

I have been going to APWA's Congress and Exposition since 1995, when I attended my first conference in Dallas, Texas. To me, going to Congress has been very important, not only for the educational aspect but also for the networking. It's a chance to leave the office—but not leave work.

In-depth discussions about public works issues always occur at Congress. It's a good opportunity to compare and contrast the operations of my own department. To be able to talk with peers about public works issues is a tremendous benefit. Sometimes I learn as much standing in line or sitting at a lunch table with my peers as I do at the educational sessions. If I have a problem that needs a solution, chances are I'll talk with someone who has already "been there, done that." I've never met a public works professional at Congress who was not willing to assist if they could.

There's plenty of networking that goes on during the First Timers Meeting.

The educational program at Congress has become the finest of any educational program in the public works community. Attendees can hear top-line speakers talk about cutting-edge issues, and can take that information back and apply it to their communities. The educational sessions allow me to not only grow as a person, but to grow as a representative of an organization. The technical sessions are on timely topics, and refreshers on good management practices have always helped inspire me to share new ideas with enthusiasm upon returning home.

The exhibit floor is huge and vendors are very helpful to provide needed information. New products and new ideas are always abundant on the floor. I'm not aware of another place in the country with this number of exhibits where you can view the technology and get the expertise from the people who are providing services, materials and technology to the industry.

The networking at Congress is just incredible. Since becoming involved in public works in 1995, I have developed a network of public works professionals all across the United States and Canada. APWA has encouraged the development of this valuable resource. Seeing these people at Congress is like "old home week."

Congress is always a great opportunity to renew friendships and to laugh. With the intensity of our jobs, laughter is sometimes overlooked and hard to find in the workplace.

The interesting part of public works is the fact that it is so diversified with all of the specialties. I often say that it ranges from airports to zoos and literally everything in between—wastewater, solid waste, you name it—and Congress offers a kind of "Top 40" selection to choose from. There is simply no other forum in the world that offers such a large diversity of activities of an educational nature that Congress does.

Brenda Herrman can be reached at (785) 628-7350 or at bherrman@haysusa.com.