Fresno's two-pronged celebration of National Public Works Week

Ken Nerland
Director, General Services Department
City of Fresno, California

Located in the geographic center of California, the City of Fresno went all-out at its celebration of National Public Works Week last May. With a growing population exceeding 450,000, Fresno is California's sixth-largest city and fast approaching fifth-largest status. So, leading-edge service excellence is required by its citizens from the City's public works staff to keep pace with the ever-escalating demands of a vibrant community. Last year's National Public Works Week celebration focused on informing the residents of Fresno about the City's diverse activities to serve the community's needs, but also honored and recognized the dedicated City staff who make it all happen every day.

Fresno's General Services, Public Works and Public Utilities Departments partnered to celebrate this nationwide recognition of the important role public works plays in communities everywhere. On Tuesday, May 18, 2004, Mayor Alan Autry and the Fresno City Council proclaimed the week of May 16-22 as "NATIONAL PUBLIC WORKS WEEK" in the City of Fresno, California. A public proclamation was read at the Council meeting and expressions of appreciation were voiced by the elected officials, highly commending City staff for their significant contributions to Fresno's positive community environment and infrastructure. They called upon all citizens and civic organizations in Fresno to recognize the contributions which the Public Works, General Services and Public Utilities Departments make every day to the health, safety, comfort, and quality of life of the community's residents.

After the proclamation was presented to the Public Works, General Services and Public Utilities Directors at the day's scheduled Council meeting, a public outreach event was held on the grounds and in the street in front of City Hall. Staff from divisions representing each of the departments manned thirteen different information tables to illustrate displays and information about the work they do for the City and explained to interested citizens and other City staff the services they provide as well as their program's mission. The street in front of City Hall was closed to through-traffic to accommodate a huge showcase of diverse City vehicles and equipment and vendor displays. The City's "Clean Air" fleet of natural gas and hybrid vehicles was well represented along with refuse trucks, tractors, and specialty equipment like a sewer maintenance camera truck. The National Public Works Week celebration at City Hall was well attended by Fresno citizens, City staff and school groups, and local media featured the event on the TV nightly news.

The second leg of Fresno's two-pronged NPWW celebration was focused on staff recognition and appreciation. On Friday, May 21, the three departments again partnered to further celebrate the week by providing a barbecue to honor staff for their delivery of outstanding public works service each and every day to the citizens of the City of Fresno. The staff celebration was held at the City's Municipal Service Center with over 500 staff in attendance. Supervisors and management from the three departments served barbecue tri-tip beef with all the fixings to an appreciative team of dedicated staff members.

The City Manager and Directors from each of the three participating departments expressed personal appreciation for their committed staff and the critical work they perform each day to enable the City to function as the culture of excellence Fresno citizens expect and deserve. Tickets were provided to each staff member for raffle drawings for prizes which were provided by appreciative local vendors. The staff present enjoyed a great time together in celebrating National Public Works Week, in a manner never before done in Fresno. Several staff members expressed how positive the event was and how much they personally enjoyed the recognition for the outstanding public service they provide every day.

An added benefit of the event was that it brought together staff from three different City of Fresno departments that deliver public works services and provided an opportunity for team building and camaraderie. Staff team members from the General Services Department provide Fleet Management, Facilities Management, Communications Services, Central Printing and Purchasing services to all City customer departments. The Public Utilities Department team provides key City services such as Sewer Maintenance, Solid Waste Management, Community Sanitation, Wastewater Management and Water Production & Distribution. Fresno's Public Works Department team provides Engineering Services, Traffic Operations, Capital Management, Construction Management and Streets Maintenance services. The gathering of over 500 staff members from these three departments to recognize their contribution to the City of Fresno as public works professionals was an exhilarating experience never before experienced by all present.

Fresno's celebration of National Public Works Week with two separate events and melding staff from three different departments that deliver public works services was highly successful and well received. Positive feedback was heard over and over from the public and City staff who participated. We look forward to making this year's event even bigger and better with possible additions of hands-on demonstrations for the public and site tours.

Ken Nerland, a past president of the Central California Chapter, can be reached at (559) 621-1001 or at

Editor's Note: How are you planning to celebrate National Public Works Week in 2005? We'd love to hear from you—just go to the NPWW website at and click on "Tell us about your NPWW outreach."

In the meantime, in case you haven't made any plans, keep in mind that the APWA staff is here to help. If you would like a "How To" guide for planning your NPWW activities, please let us know. Just call us at (800) 848-APWA or send an e-mail to Jon Dilley, Manager of Marketing and Graphic Design, at