A winning combination: Wayne Tanda

Editor's Note: This issue's Member Profile features Wayne Tanda, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, City of Los Angeles, California; former member of APWA's Transportation Committee and Leadership and Management Committee; and former member of the Urban Forum.

Tell us about your background: In the 1960s I attended San Jose State University earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. As a part-time student, I earned a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from San Jose and a Master of Public Administration degree from Golden Gate University.

For the past thirty-four years I've had the pleasure of working in the public sector serving the cities of San Jose and Los Angeles. During my tenure in the two cities I was a member of several departments including Public Works, of course, but also Aviation, Parks and Recreation, Streets and Traffic, and lastly the Departments of Transportation. I have been a department head for the past thirteen years.

I am a registered professional engineer in both Civil Engineering and Traffic Engineering, and I'm a certified Professional Transportation Operations Engineer.

Favorite Book: The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey is a book that I've found to be both insightful and intuitive. The habits apply to a person's personal as well as professional well-being and success.

Hobbies/Interests: I've never considered them hobbies, but participating in community service has occupied a lot of my time. In the Bay Area I lived in Morgan Hill, which is a small community just south of San Jose, and served on the Parks and Recreation Commission. It was the first and only time that I served a government agency as a policy maker rather than staff. It was fun to not have to be responsible for the execution of policy.

For a number of years I served my alma mater, San Jose State University, on the Advisory Council for the Department of Civil Engineering, as an instructor in the Graduate Program and as a guest lecturer. I felt very fortunate to be able to give back to an institution that had given me so much.

I continue to be involved in a civil rights organization, the Japanese-American Citizens League. The organization is an advocate for the fair and equal treatment of all people.

Participation in professional organizations, like APWA and ITE, has also preoccupied considerable time. Being involved is a fantastic way to both contribute and to learn.

Role Model: There are several. The first is Martin Luther King. Growing up in the '60s, I saw in him the difference that one individual could make in society. And that inspired me to try to make a difference too.

Two other individuals who stand out are former supervisors. The first is a person who, by his actions rather than his words, defined personal integrity. He made tough choices that did not make him popular, but made him a person who you could depend upon to do the right thing. I reflect upon what he would do when I need to make difficult choices.

A second supervisor had the quality of being able to not sweat the small stuff. His demeanor illuminated how you could cope with the pressures and demands of a public sector manager, and have fun in the process.

Career Accomplishments: Near the beginning of my career I had the good fortune of being designated as the Project Engineer for the revision of the San Jose General Plan Transportation Element. The massive revision was the collective effort of many professionals and ultimately produced the City's transportation blueprint for freeways, local streets, transit, and traffic demand management strategies. The plan guided the development of the City over the next two decades.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to create a paratransit system. The system served thousands of disabled individuals and the frail elderly, and was so successful that it evolved into a countywide program.

In San Jose I was responsible for the maintenance of the infrastructure within 2,200 miles of street right-of-way. We established asset management systems that enabled us to successfully advocate for more resources in the pavement, street tree, streetlight, sidewalk, and street cleaning programs.

For three decades I was involved in numerous innovations in traffic safety and traffic calming. In the 1970s we established a neighborhood traffic management program and pioneered preferential parking districts; in the 1980s we tested speed reduction devices such as speed humps; in the 1990s we began the use of photoradar technology to calm traffic and applied LED technology to save energy; and in the 2000s we created comprehensive traffic safety education awareness campaigns to compliment the traditional engineering and enforcement efforts. The Los Angeles campaign is one of the largest local efforts ever undertaken in the nation.

Nearly 20 years ago in San Jose we aspired to develop a traffic management system like the well-known system in Los Angeles. Over the years we built one of the most advanced traffic management systems in Northern California. As it turns out I am now with Los Angeles and am part of making one of the best systems in the world even better.

I am a believer in the adage that you do what you measure. As a department director I tried to institute into the organization's culture the importance of outcome-based performance measures, the alignment of efforts to improve performance, and holding managers accountable for results.

Tell us more about the Los Angeles Department of Transportation: The Los Angeles Department of Transportation, or LADOT, is responsible for the delivery of safe, reliable and accessible surface transportation that enhances the quality of life and economic health within the City of Los Angeles. That is a tremendous challenge, given that the Los Angeles area has been consistently ranked as the most congested urban area in the nation. Since its inception twenty-seven years ago, the Department has attained a reputation of excellence, particularly in the areas of Intelligent Transportation Systems, municipal transit services, the management of special events, and comprehensive parking program. Los Angeles, by the way, is the second largest city in the country with nearly four million residents, spread across four hundred fifty square miles.

LADOT has two thousand members. Our total budget considering all of our funding sources approaches a quarter billion dollars. The direction of the Department is to continue its progress in delivering exceptional customer services through continuous improvement, innovation, teamwork, and a highly-skilled, diverse and motivated work force. We have a close partnership with the Bureaus in the Los Angeles Department of Public Works and with Caltrans.

You have participated on APWA's Leadership and Management Committee and Transportation Committee. What has that experience been like for you? I had a great time, for several reasons. The first is being able to contribute to the profession. For example, in the Leadership and Management Committee, we identified a set of core competencies for public works leaders. Hopefully it will be of value to APWA members that are in leadership position, and more importantly to individuals who aspire to be leaders. Through the process of contributing I've learned a great deal from the experiences and perspectives of the other committee members as well as the insight of APWA staff. I also thoroughly enjoyed the thoughtful interaction with the committee members and APWA staff.

You also participated in the Urban Forum for a number of years. What are your thoughts about that group? I think it's an exceptional group of individuals. I found that our gatherings provided the opportunity for information exchange and commiserating about our challenges, including funding shortfalls, high political expectations, and the demands of the public. I found the time together as therapeutic.

Why do you like being a member of APWA? I enjoy APWA for all of the reasons that I described in the previous two questions and in particular because of the people, not only on the committees or on staff, but those individuals who I've had the pleasure of meeting in the conferences and meetings that I've been able to attend. The people who I met at the conferences and meetings were pragmatic, passionate about their services, and thoughtful about the feelings of others. That's a winning combination. I can't imagine a better group of people than the members that I've had the pleasure of meeting in APWA.