Communication, cooperation and commitment

Bob Freudenthal
APWA President

Editor's Note: President Freudenthal gave the following address at the APWA Congress banquet on September 14, 2005.

My dear friends:

I want to talk briefly tonight about our real assignment and how three C's can indeed make a D. Now this is not to be confused with the conversation I had with my middle child after his first year in college, where he tried to convince me that three D's can become a C. By the way, he's doing well with his service to his country.

You see, I believe our real assignment in life is actually quite simple, yet daunting. Our real assignment is to simply make use of our time on earth to make a positive difference, and the three C's of communication, cooperation and commitment will indeed make a difference. In our profession there is no greater benefit than seeing a difference made in the quality of life around us.

If you drive down the street and see a problem solved (drainage, traffic, safety, environmental quality, recreation) and don't get a charge, you may want to seriously evaluate if you're in the right profession. If you haven't passed along to the next generation the knowledge and experience that you've obtained along the ride, I suggest that you're missing a great reward.

Our profession dictates communication, cooperation and commitment. We communicate every day with our fellow public works professionals as well as our counterparts. In my hometown of Hendersonville we have worked very hard to communicate with each other. My current employer [Hendersonville Utility District] is a separate entity from the City of Hendersonville, with separate organizational structures and management formats. But we serve the same customer, and we communicate to provide the best possible service delivery. The incredible thing is that we started down this path when I worked for the City, and my good friend Tom Atchley came to the District as the new General Manager. Now I get the awesome opportunity to work with my friend and continue the process.

Any successful team is infused with cooperation. Our customers simply want a better quality of life. Who delivers it is not as important as we might think. Every team member must bring a sense of cooperation to the table. This organization works cooperatively with many other organizations to provide the tools, support, and resources that enable our profession to advance. A couple of examples of this effort would be the recently completed Transportation Funding Bill and Clean Water Act. Our cooperative effort made a difference and provided an example of effective leadership. Your individual efforts along the way made the difference.

Finally, a sense of commitment must permeate our efforts. Many different levels of commitment are required, and at times we are challenged with the priority of those commitments. For me, it works best when I follow the order of first a commitment to God, then my family, my community, and then my work. I'm not always successful in keeping the correct order, but the desire to stay committed to the task is always present. I know all of you here tonight are driven by a strong sense of commitment because you have dedicated yourselves to improving professionally by attending our Congress.

As I said earlier, it's really about making a difference. I'm proud to be a part of such a wonderful group of people as public works. Our task is great, our time is limited, but with communication, cooperation and commitment we will accomplish the goal, we will make a positive difference. Let's work together and, every chance we get, let's enjoy the ride.

Thank you.