2006 Congress: WOW!
"You are about to experience one of the most fantastic times of your life."
R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter
APWA Kansas City Office
It was the weekend of September 9-10 and there was plenty going on in Kansas City. For starters, at Arrowhead Stadium, our beloved Kansas City Chiefs opened their season at home against the Cincinnati Bengals (although for Chiefs fans, perhaps the less said about that game the better). And at Kemper Arena, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brought the 135th version of their amazing circus to town.
But for public works professionals, the place to be was at the 2006 APWA International Public Works Congress & Exposition held at the Kansas City Convention Center. This year's event ran from opening day on September 10 through the closing Banquet on September 13, and was truly international in scope. We call it the Best Show in Public Works, folks, and word has clearly gotten around. The globetrotting registration list included guests from Australia, Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Czech Republic, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom.
When the devastating damage of Hurricane Katrina made it unworkable to hold the convention in New Orleans as originally planned, the APWA Board of Directors moved the event to Kansas City. And when that call came, the Mid-America Host Chapters (Kansas City Metro, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska) stepped up to make the conference come together in style. "Our annual Congress could not happen if it weren't for the dedication each year of the Congress Host Committee," President Bill Verkest told the attendees at the Banquet. "In less than one year, the Mid-America Host Chapters raised the money and put in the hard work necessary to ensure that we all enjoyed this year's Congress and had a memorable visit to Kansas City."
And memorable it was, as well as enjoyable, enlightening and just plain fun. Let's take a look at the highlights of our Congress, including our search to find our very own Public Works Idol, a look at moving into the Conceptual Age, and some thoughts from a Pro Bowl quarterback about the law of gravity.
"We want you to come and join us"
There are always enough entertaining and thought-provoking activities on Congress Saturday to make the extra day of travel entirely worth your while, and this year was no exception. Our sightseeing tour, "A Visit with the President," took attendees to scenic Independence, Missouri for an outing to the magnificent Harry S. Truman Library, followed by a drive through historic Independence Square on the way to our final stop, the Truman Home.
On the educational side of things, four full-day Pre-Congress Workshops were presented. Since I find it hard to be in two places at once I settled on attending the workshop on "Pavement Preservation: Principles and Practice." This informative session was taught by Larry Galehouse, Director of the National Center for Pavement Preservation, and Gerry Eller, Executive Director of the Foundation for Pavement Preservation (FP2). Between the two of them, these gentlemen really brought home the importance of the principles and practices that guide pavement preservation in municipal settings. "Integrating reconstruction, rehabilitation, and preservation, in the proper proportions, will substantially improve network conditions for the taxpayer while safeguarding their investment," Galehouse said.
Also on Congress Saturday, the nine Technical Committees met to develop business plans and review their policy and position statements while the House of Delegates conducted its annual Business Meeting.
The APWA team at the Habitat for Humanity Kansas City project
And, in what has become a welcome tradition during Congress, a number of attendees chose to spend their Saturday refurbishing a house as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. The house was located in western Jackson County, and according to Jim Lee of the Kansas City Metro Chapter, the thirteen workers representing APWA came through exactly like the public works professionals they are.
"Working under the guidance of two Habitat staff members," Lee said, "our folks worked alongside the homeowner, putting in some sweat equity of his own, to build a basement stairway support system, install vent channels to prevent attic insulation from entering the soffits, soundproof bathroom walls, and install a ceiling and sheathing on the front porch gable." President-Elect Larry Frevert delivered a clear message during Monday's General Session. "Habitat for Humanity is an important initiative, and your Board of Directors is committed to it. When we go to New Orleans in 2008 [for the APWA Congress] your Board of Directors is going in a day early, and we want you to come and join us. We're going to do some major Habitat for Humanity work in the community of New Orleans." The applause from that audience was loud, long, and clearly heartfelt.
"Run yourself into the ground"
The tenth-annual First-Timers Meeting kicked things off on Congress Sunday, with well over two hundred newcomers on hand to learn how to get the most value from their first Congress. And it didn't hurt that this was the first time that a full breakfast was provided to the attendees (a big thanks goes to Rinker Materials Hydro Conduit Division for their sponsorship). Diversity Committee Chair Cora Jackson-Fossett, enthusiastic and spirited as ever, opened the meeting by introducing the Board of Directors and members of the Diversity Committee who organized the meeting, and followed by recognizing the Chapter Diversity Liaisons and a number of international attendees among the crowd.
President Verkest then welcomed the first timers and gave them some simple advice for handling their first Congress: "Run yourself into the ground. It's been reported that when President John F. Kennedy entered the White House right after his inauguration, he turned to his entourage and asked, 'What do we do now?' And I'm sure that's what you're asking as well. You've got this book [the Congress Program & Show Guide] full of all kinds of programs and things that are going to happen to you out there, and it is so full that you'll almost certainly run yourself into the ground."
More than 200 people attended the First-Timers Meeting on Congress Sunday.
After discussing the value of attending the four General Sessions and as many of the educational sessions as possible, as well as touring the exhibit floor, Verkest emphasized the networking opportunities available to the new attendees. "Network with us old guys, and network with the other first timers that are here," he said. "I've been hanging around this business for a long time—I've been a member of APWA for thirty-eight years. But the bottom line is that at Congresses I've gone to in the past, I've met people that I still see at every Congress that I go to. And some of these people, I'm very pleased to say, I appointed to leadership positions in APWA because I met them somewhere along the way, either at a First-Timers Meeting or somewhere during the APWA Congress.
"The key thing, ladies and gentlemen, is: Enjoy it. Enjoy it. Yes, you're going to be tired when you go home, but the bottom line is you are about to experience one of the most fantastic times of your life. There is so much that you can do. Have a great time!"
Executive Director Peter King also emphasized the importance of the educational sessions, exposition and networking. Regarding the educational sessions he said, "If you look at your Congress Program you'll see an array of opportunities to take on and see the kinds of things that many of your colleagues in North America are addressing. Our goal is to give you a difficult time with each of those time slots selecting where you want to go, and I think we've done that if you look at the Program. There are dozens of opportunities, so take advantage of that."
After helpful suggestions from members of the Diversity Committee and other APWA staff, civil and environmental engineer David Grouchy (pronounced Groo-shay) was on hand to conduct a fun networking exercise for the group. Grouchy, President of Grouchy Enterprises, Falls Church, VA, and his wife Janet specialize in communication and leadership, and conducted several educational sessions during the Kansas City Congress including "Recruiting the Best People for the Job" on Congress Monday (see the related article in the September issue on page 46).
"Everybody in here is associated with public works in some manner or other," Grouchy began, "perhaps as a director of public works, as a member of APWA, or as a supplier. In other words, someone who is involved in taking care of the people of your community. So we know that. But we don't need to know that!" he shouted to the audience. "What we need to know is who you are so that we can network, learn more about other people, and actually make contact on a personal basis."
With that, Grouchy instructed the first timers to walk around and find as many people as possible that fit ten criteria, such as someone with the same first name. After about ten minutes of finding and chatting with people who filled our individual bills, we returned to our seats to hear more about networking from Grouchy. "This is all the texture of the people that you work with," he said. "APWA is not just about roads and bridges, about culverts and sewers. It's about people. And the strength of this Congress and the strength of your ability to make use of this Congress is how deeply you learn about the people around you. Several folks here already mentioned that if you have problems, somebody here can solve your problems, and they may use methods you never thought about before. This is your opportunity to be creative; this is your opportunity to make contacts that will last a lifetime."
"All reported having a great time"
"Who is Ron Norris?" "Does he really exist?" "You mean I really get to meet the President of APWA?" Questions like these were coming from the seventeen Emerging Public Works Leaders as they worked to complete the lengthy list of persons, places, and things on this year's Scavenger Hunt. "Surprisingly, most found everyone and everything, and all reported having a great time searching," said Ann Daniels, APWA Director of Technical Services.
This year's class of Emerging Leaders and their Mentors enjoyed a Dutch Treat dinner on Saturday evening as they met each other and began the process of getting acquainted with Congress and APWA in general. Early morning breakfast sessions were held on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with presentations from members of the Leadership and Management Committee on engaging topics like "How to Survive Local Government," "What is a Leader and Am I One?" and "How Can I Get Involved?"
"Each year's participants express their appreciation and enjoyment of the program and go home enthused about APWA," Daniels said. "Each year a greater push is made to include the many attendees who would be eligible to participate. Watch for next year's plans and have a participant from your agency in mind to join the fun."
"A myriad of issues"
Approximately 52 percent of APWA members come from communities of less than 100,000 citizens. During the Small Cities/Rural Communities (SCRC) Forum at Congress, members from Utah, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado and Arizona met to talk about public works and small-town living.
"The group discussed a myriad of issues including how small towns can work with larger cities on project planning, challenges of limited staff and resources requiring public works staff to wear many hats, long-term regional planning for infrastructure projects, and onerous procedures for obtaining federal funding," said Becky Wickstrom, APWA Manager of Media Affairs.
SCRC is intended to provide networking opportunities for those in small and rural communities, maintain ongoing dialogue about issues facing small communities with APWA leadership and represent SCRC issues for the association. For more information about the SCRC Forum or to become involved, please don't hesitate to contact Emily Walters at (202) 218-6720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"What an extraordinary year we have had"
It's not every day that you can watch a hilarious video of public works professionals trying to become a "Public Works Idol," but that's exactly how Sunday's Opening General Session began. Clearly a send-up of FOX Network's "American Idol," the video showcased a cast of true characters, including President Verkest, Past Presidents Bob Freudenthal, Tom Trice, Dwayne Kalynchuk, Judy Mueller and Bob Albee, and several other APWA members. Some actors got into the game as well, with nuanced performances (well, at least funny ones) as backhoe operators and solid waste workers. Each took their turn to explain to the three judges—Randy Jackhammer, Paula Powertool and Simon Trowell—why they and only they deserved the title of Public Works Idol.
Audience members were also chosen to trade banter with host "Ryan Verkest" (another fictitious name). And the videos and interviews continued throughout the week, all in good fun. One ongoing gag had the host continually mispronounce Bob Freudenthal's name throughout the conference ("Freudentoot" seemed to be a favorite version). Approaching the podium after his name was butchered, and with a disgruntled look on his face, Freudenthal began by saying, "Thank you, Ryan. It's Freudenthal, by the way. Just like I told you in rehearsal...for the third time."
But there was serious business to attend to, and after welcoming remarks from Host Committee General Chair Ed Wolf and General Co-Chair Mac Andrew (both former APWA Top Tens), Freudenthal began his final address as APWA President. "I believe there is no greater calling than service to your fellow citizens," he said. "Today, as I reflect on the past year and all we accomplished together, I have an even greater appreciation for public service. It has been an honor to meet with our extraordinary members throughout North America, serve as your president and represent this worthwhile and important association.
"At this time last year, shortly after witnessing the fury and devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, we were eager to lend support to public works colleagues, friends and citizens in the affected areas. APWA members generously donated their time, talents and resources to aid recovery and rebuilding efforts in the region. Some were deployed by organizing agencies to assess and repair immediate infrastructure damage, some contributed to ongoing aid efforts and many offered financial contributions to local disaster relief agencies. Through the APWA Katrina Relief Fund, we collected more than $67,000 from generous members and chapters for local Habitat for Humanity projects.
"Immediately after our Congress in Minneapolis, your Board of Directors faced the difficult task of evaluating the capability of New Orleans hosting our 2006 Congress. As you know, we made the decision to defer our visit to New Orleans to 2008, and Kansas City stepped up—as only public works professionals can—to host us this year.
"Our decision to make a change to our schedule and go to New Orleans in 2008 had everything to do with our members in New Orleans and Louisiana. Anyone involved in helping host a Congress knows what kind of volunteer effort it takes to run Congress on an even keel. As a Board, we simply could not ask, nor expect our members in the region, to volunteer to 'host us' when many were—and remain—picking up the pieces of their communities and their own lives. Without a doubt we made the right decision to come to Kansas City."
Freudenthal then mentioned some of the highlights over the past year, including the launching of the Public Fleet Professional Certification program, our first individual certification program, and the initiation of WorkZone, our new online job resource for public works.
"What an extraordinary year we have had," he said at the conclusion of his presentation. "I would like to thank the many volunteers of APWA, the unpaid heroes who give of their time to the benefit of all in the field of public works."
Following the introduction of the Board of Directors, it was time for the traditional passing of the gavel. "And now I pass the gavel on to an individual who possesses a great passion for public works and APWA," Freudenthal said. "It is with a great deal of pleasure that I now officially recognize and pass the gavel to your 2006-2007 APWA President, Mr. Bill Verkest."
"My hope is that you will run yourself into the ground," said new APWA President Bill Verkest.
"Here in Kansas City, you are not under the daily demands of where you came from, cell phones and Blackberries notwithstanding," President Verkest said to the attendees. "You have just been placed into a new four-day environment, a new exhibit space, a new opportunity. All you need to do is take advantage of it. Yes, there are more educational sessions than you can or would like to attend. Yes, the exposition floor is nearly one hundred thousand square feet of products and services to help you do your job better, and yes, there are thousands of people who came here for the same reasons you did and with whom you can network.
"My hope is that you will run yourself into the ground; that you leave exhausted in body, but victorious in mind and spirit, ready to better meet the challenges you face as public works professionals. I would like you to leave here saying, 'WOW did I have a great time' and 'WOW am I glad to be a member of the American Public Works Association.'"
Daniel Pink discussed how we are moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.
Following Verkest's inspirational speech, it was time to bring on the Opening General Session's Keynote Speaker, Daniel Pink, a best-selling author and an expert on innovation, competition, and the changing world of work. Pink served as a speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, and has also worked both as an economic policy staffer in the U.S. Senate and as a legal researcher in India. His book A Whole New Mind looks at the right brain/left brain differences and describes how, as he says in his book, "We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what's rising in its place, the Conceptual Age."
Pink's presentation, like his book, focused on how the forces of Abundance, Asia, and Automation are pushing us into an era where design and big-picture thinking are the new emphasis. "The material standard of living in this country is stunning," he said, explaining his theory of abundance. "I want to drive this home with some data. Let's take automobiles. My grandparents were born in the first few years of the twentieth century. When they were in their forties, an automobile was a rich person's toy. You know how many automobiles there are in the United States today? Today, in the United States, as well as in Canada, you have more automobiles than you have licensed drivers. That's what I mean by abundance."
In an age of abundance, appealing only to rational, logical, and function needs is woefully insufficient, according to Pink. "Engineers must figure out how to get things to work. But if those things are not also pleasing to the eye or compelling to the soul, few will buy them. Mastery of design, empathy, play, and other seemingly 'soft' aptitudes is now the main way for individuals and firms to stand out in a crowded marketplace."
Pink brought plenty of humor to his presentation as well. Again on the subject of abundance, he said, "How many of you have something in self-storage? Let's think about the self-storage industry here for a moment. It's an industry devoted to excess, right? Now that's kind of interesting, isn't it—that you'd need a whole industry to house our extra crap."
Many of the booths on the exhibit floor, such as this one for Vista Training, featured hands-on demonstrations.
"Those unexpected treasures"
"Now it's time to move on to one of the most exciting events this week: the opening of the 2006 Exposition," President Verkest said at the conclusion of the Opening General Session. "Over one thousand people have been working hard just to get the exhibit floor ready for you."
Indeed, it was obvious that Congressgoers didn't want to miss a minute of the excitement as nearly 450 companies exhibited their best and newest tools for making your jobs easier and more productive, including everything from huge trucks to exciting new computer programs to the latest in paving material. The exhibit floor at our annual conference is the only opportunity to view so much under one roof in such a short time. There is, quite simply, nothing like it.
Traffic was high each day, with plenty of folks stopping by the booths, asking questions, meeting the experts, collecting souvenirs, and picking up brochures. Several people I ran into said they planned a different route each day, just so they wouldn't miss a thing. That way there would be "plenty of time to explore those unexpected treasures you're sure to find," one said.
Something for everyone
When it comes to educational sessions at Congress, veteran Congressgoers know that there really is something for everyone. It's a big help that the sessions are conveniently divided into tracks of special interests, and the ample opportunities to earn Continuing Education Units are a big plus as well.
Even a quick review of each of the 150-plus sessions would turn this magazine into a small book, and unfortunately it's a bit beyond my budget to do that. Still, I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight at least a few, such as "TravelCast: A New Technology for Managing Construction Traffic Control," which discussed a planning tool for anticipating traffic impacts from individual or multiple construction projects. Among the most useful outputs from TravelCast are travel time estimates, because they are verifiable and easily shared with and understood by the public.
Then there are the innovative things the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works is doing with school partnerships. In "Reaching Communities through School Partnerships," attendees learned about the department's success in partnering with schools through intern and mentor programs, career awareness projects, and after-school programs. Recently, the Board of Public Works recognized 54 high school students who participated in the 2006 Los Angeles Department of Public Works High School Internship Program. "The program, now in its fourth year, offered students paid summer internships with local architectural and engineering firms that partnered with the Board of Public Works," said Commissioner Yolanda Fuentes, Board of Public Works Intern Program Coordinator.
By the way, if you couldn't make it to this year's Congress, you can easily hear what you missed. The presentations are available as part of an interactive MP3 CD-ROM series (featuring live digital audio recordings) and can be ordered online at www.netsymposium.com.
Take it to the next level
APWA's Certified Public Fleet Professional (CPFP) and Certified Grounds Manager (CGM) programs, the latest in a series of professional development initiatives administered by APWA to promote excellence in the industry, were also introduced during the Kansas City Congress.
"I'm pleased to announce the launch of our first individual certification programs," said outgoing President Freudenthal during the Opening General Session. "Both will ensure competent, experienced and well-trained employees and will eventually lead to an improved workforce and improved delivery of services. Certification is likely to be a word you hear much more from APWA as we develop a blueprint for certification programs to help our members 'take it to the next level.'"
The role of public fleet operation has evolved over the years, moving from simply providing high-quality, low-cost repair service to addressing asset management and its many related business functions. "The Public Fleet Professional Certification program is designed to ensure individual competency and provide the public works industry with recognized hiring and promotion standards," said Becky Stein, APWA Manager of Certification. (The first CPFP examination will be April 21, 2007, in St. Paul, Minnesota.)
Similarly, the Certified Grounds Manager program developed and offered by the Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS) and officially endorsed by APWA is the first of its type in the Green Industry. "Measuring and evaluating a set of minimum standards for professional grounds managers, the program will define basic elements in grounds management and promote continuing education and evaluation of the individual's knowledge and capabilities," Stein said.
Dealing with complex things
Congress Monday took place on September 11, 2006five years to the day after the terrorist attacks on our country. Appropriately, the General Session began with a solemn remembrance to the victims and heroes of 9/11.
Following the tribute, President-Elect Larry Frevert greeted the attendees. "First of all, I'd like to get your blood pumping this morning by doing a quick survey," he began. "How many of you went to the Get Acquainted Party yesterday? Let me hear the applause." [Loud applause] "How many met a new friend yesterday, a professional colleague?" [More applause] "How many ran into somebody that you hadn't seen in at least a year, and you renewed that acquaintance?" [Even more applause] "Now, I want you to direct that applause to the host chapters and the staff that put that Get Acquainted Party together yesterday. I thought they did a fantastic job." [The loudest and the longest]
Frevert then introduced Monday's General Session speaker, Joseph Coates, a world-renowned thinker, writer and speaker on the future. Coates has been a consultant to over half of the Fortune 100 companies in the U.S. He is the author of numerous articles and papers and is currently on the editorial boards of nine publications. His career includes serving as an analyst for a nonprofit think tank as well as positions with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and he holds 19 patents from his first career as an industrial chemist.
During a fascinating presentation, Coates examined the global, social, business and economic trends creating the context today that will define public works services over the next 30 years. "Your business is dealing with complex things," he said to the audience, "and one of the interesting public services that is going to be found in the very places that you work in today are things like windmills, or other technologies that are going to be generating energy. And then, of course, much of the energy that will be delivered to us will not be delivered in the usual form by truck or trailer, but will be delivered by wire, will be delivered electronically."
Later on in his presentation, while discussing the future of transportation, Coates brought up the idea of smart highways and smart cars. "There's absolutely no doubt in the 30-year period we're talking about that we'll be so much farther along with the interaction between the vehicle and the highway," he said. "I see the unfolding of smartness and the interactive smart highway coming about incrementally. We now have so much computer capability in the automobile that it's no big deal to add a couple more sensors to give instructions to the driver—that's all there potentially today. What I see happening is interaction between the vehicle and the off-highway first. For example [referring to an onboard audio alert system], 'The road up ahead, six miles from now, is washed out with rain; indicate where you're headed and we'll give you the best available alternative route'; none of this business of going blind looking at a tiny screen in front of your steering wheel. So, I see that interaction growing and then becoming more and more interactive with vehicles as you enter the highway."
|Marg Verbeek, President of the International Association of Emergency Managers, and Ian Neville, CPWA Past President, during the CPWA Luncheon on Congress Monday|
CPWA Luncheon: Infrastructure Policy and Emergency Management
Also on Congress Monday, Canadian public works officials and other APWA Congressgoers gathered at the annual Canadian Public Works Association (CPWA) Luncheon. According to Megan Zadecky, Program Manager in APWA's Washington Office, more than 100 attendees heard two keynote addresses: one from Carol Beal, Assistant Deputy Minister, Program Operations Branch of Infrastructure Canada, and the other from Marg Verbeek, MCIP, CEM, President of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), and Manager of Emergency Measures for the Region of Waterloo. "The topics discussed at this year's lunch, the federal infrastructure policy program and emergency management, are paramount throughout the Canadian public works community," Zadecky said.
In the opening speech, Beal updated attendees on current policy issues with the government and upcoming initiatives at Infrastructure Canada. "CPWA was pleased to host Carol Beal and other staff from Infrastructure Canada at the luncheon," said Ian Neville, CPWA Past President. "CPWA has developed a great working relationship with Infrastructure Canada. The public works profession benefits when federal policy makers, such as Carol Beal and others at Infrastructure Canada, are familiar with the vital role public works professionals play in the management and operation of Canada's civil infrastructure."
IAEM President Verbeek provided a closing address in "The Challenge of Managing Complex Emergencies." She focused on emergency preparedness and management, the critical role of public works professionals as first responders, and the importance of public works in emergency operation centers throughout Canada. "Emergency management is an important issue facing public works professionals," said Neville. "It was insightful for us to learn more about the trends in disaster and emergency preparedness." (For more information about CPWA activities visit www.cpwa.net.)
"You deal with this every day"
Tuesday's General Session speaker was Raymond Seed, Ph.D., Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. A leading expert in the fields of geotechnical and earthquake engineering, Seed led the National Science Foundation-sponsored Independent Levee Investigation Team that studied the failure of the New Orleans regional flood protection system during Hurricane Katrina. He discussed the NSF team's findings in a provocative presentation entitled "New Orleans' Flood Protection System—Was Katrina the Culprit?" He also discussed other levee systems throughout the world and examined the levels of risk posed by potential levee failure.
On Congress Tuesday, Raymond Seed provided lessons learned from the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
"New Orleans was worse than you think," he began. "No matter how many times you've seen it on the news, it was worse when you were there. A major city was destroyed and very little was left. People from our team had seen events where many thousands more people had died, as many as thirty and forty thousand in some of the earthquakes. But we'd never seen such pervasive damage. In earthquakes there are pockets of damage and pockets of goodness; in New Orleans there were no pockets. Mile after mile after mile simply flooded—all the same, and all of it simply gone."
Throughout his presentation Seed provided a number of lessons learned from the disaster. "Lessons here are simple," he said. "Engineer it well and build it right. A recurring theme throughout the season was political pressures and governmental pressures and inadequate appropriations, all designed at shaving costs. We were cost effective, but routinely we made short-term cost savings and as a result, risk accumulated. This is a national issue. You guys deal with this every day. You all deal with a fragile infrastructure that continues to decay and inadequate public investment to keep it online."
Concluding his presentation, Seed stressed how we cannot simply modify the design manuals and the engineering details. "If we want safe levees in the future, we have to overhaul the entire process," he said. "It has to start with the White House and Congress, it has to run through all the agencies and engineers and construction firms that do the work, and it has to finish out in local government and local oversight agencies. All of that needs to work better if we're going to have reliable levees."
"Every aspect of your life"
How many kids dream of a career in public works? Maybe a few more after this Congress. President-Elect Frevert encouraged young adults at the APWA Futures Program to consider the possibilities of the industry.
The Futures Program offers middle school and high school students the opportunity to attend one day of Congress, listen to presentations by APWA and local public works leaders, visit the expansive equipment floor and tour a local public works site. Not only does the program expose students to careers in public works and engineering, it provides a look at the opportunities available directly through APWA.
For Frevert, the program is an important outreach tool for involving young people in Congress. "Public works affects every aspect of your life," Frevert said in his opening remarks. "If you choose this for your career, you probably won't get rich if you count richness as the number of dollars in your pocket. But if you count richness as having great opportunities and helping people, public works is for you." (For more information about the APWA Futures Program, contact Dave Dancy, APWA Director of Marketing, at (816) 595-5250 or email@example.com.)
"If it weren't for the law of gravity..."
President Verkest began Wednesday's Closing General Session by asking the attendees a question: "Are you filled with enthusiasm saying to everyone you talk to: 'WOW did I have a great time' and 'WOW am I glad to be a member of the American Public Works Association'? My hope is that you'll leave Kansas City with a new passion and fire for the profession we proudly call public works!"
Verkest congratulated the Mid-America Host Chapters for a job well done and recognized the Texas Chapter for their hard work in planning the 2007 Best Show in Public Works. The audience was then shown a video glimpse of the fun in store for Congressgoers next year in San Antonio.
|Former Pro Bowl quarterback Archie Manning shared some motivational words of wisdom—along with some humor—with the audience at the Closing General Session.|
And finally, it was time to bring out the last General Session speaker, Archie Manning. Manning was an All-American quarterback at the University of Mississippi and is the only Ole Miss player to have his number retired. In his 14 years as quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, he played in two Pro Bowls and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1978.
In a very entertaining presentation, Manning provided the audience with an equal dose of inspiration and humor. "I'd like to share with you a few principles that I think translate from the football field to the business world," he said. "The first principle is that we must all develop an attitude of leadership. People in the media say to me, 'Archie, I know that on a football team the quarterback is the guy who has to be the leader.' Well, I maintain that on a true team of professionals, every single member must develop an attitude of leadership. And I'm sure the public works industry has hundreds of stories about second- and third-string players who saw a need and took it upon themselves to fill that need, and as a result a project was completed."
Manning cited three other principles as important to live by: teamwork ("the second principle we absolutely must learn, and I'm sure this is true in public works, is to depend upon others"); flexibility ("long-term success is built not just on following your plan, but knowing what to do when your plan breaks down"); and a willingness to play the game ("the greatest awards don't come from winning the game, they come from playing the game; continue to strive to be a professional, because that alone will set you apart from the common breed.")
Manning's motivational words were great, but I imagine that most of us in the audience were there to listen to his football stories, and fortunately he shared plenty of them—almost all humorous. Here's one of the most memorable:
"We had a coach in New Orleans for a few years named Hank Stram," he said. "Of course, Hank Stram won the only World Championship for the Kansas City Chiefs [applause from the crowd]. Hank was a real dynamic guy, always well-prepared and had great things to say. Well, we were soundly thrashed by the Rams one day, and I didn't enjoy one of my best days. I completed twenty passes during the course of the game...fifteen of them went to the Saints and five of them went to the Rams [audience laughter].
"So now I had to go into the dressing room, and one thing you've got to understand about a losing dressing room is that everyone gets dressed real quick and gets out of there. I wanted to also, but no—I had to talk to the media and go through every one of those horrible interceptions. I was hoping I'd be the last one out, but there was one guy left in there—Hank Stram. But I figured since he was an upbeat, enthusiastic guy, maybe he'd say something to pick me up, since I was feeling lousy.
"So I went by his coaching cubicle and looked him right in the eye and said, 'Coach, I'm sorry, I had a bad day. I was off.' He looked up at me and said, 'Off? Son, if it weren't for the law of gravity, you couldn't hit the ground out there today.'"
President Bill Verkest presented Immediate Past President Bob Freudenthal with a plaque at the Congress Banquet.
"We are so close!"
The Congress Banquet began with the traditional introduction and procession of the APWA Executive Committee down the aisle, followed by the introduction of the Board of Directors. President Verkest also recognized the 2006 Top Ten recipients, volunteers from the Mid-America Host Chapters, a number of APWA Past Presidents, the Emerging Public Works Leaders, and our international guests. He also recognized former Board member John German and Past President Tom Trice for their service and dedication to APWA, along with immediate Past President Bob Freudenthal. "Bob has brought an amazing energy and commitment to the job, and I am proud to follow in his footsteps as I begin my year as President of APWA," Verkest said.
After an outstanding dinner of Petit Filet of Beef and Wasabi Cod (the big attractions at Congress are the educational sessions, exhibit floor and networking opportunities, but the food at the Banquet also ranks right up there), President Verkest returned to the podium to deliver the traditional presidential address. He spoke of making APWA a "WOW" association by fostering a combination of vision, courage, determination and talent. "We can be a 'WOW' association," he said. "We are so close!" (President Verkest's Banquet address is reproduced in its entirety as the "President's Message" on page 2.)
The evening's entertainment was "The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey, and Dean," a re-creation of the Las Vegas performances of the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Dean Martin) from the 1960s.
It's San Antonio in '07
I could go on and on about our conference...except for that thing I mentioned earlier about my budget. Suffice to say that it was another memorable Congress—but then again, they all are. Make plans to come to the next one. We're headed to San Antonio in the Lone Star State, September 9-12, 2007. I'll see you there.
Kevin Clark can be reached at (816) 595-5230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.