Helping keep the tie strong: John Habermann

Editor's Note: This month's Member Profile features John Habermann, P.E., Research Engineer, Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana; former member of APWA's Education Advisory Committee (2002-04), Congress Program Review Committee (2001-02); 2001 North American Snow Conference Co-Chair; and presenter, 2006 North American Snow Conference.

Tell us about your background: I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I went to Texas A&M University where I received my bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1992. I received my master's degree in civil engineering from Purdue University in 1994, specializing in transportation and bituminous materials. After four years in the consulting field, I returned to the Civil Engineering Department at Purdue and joined the Indiana LTAP Center as the Research Engineer.

Favorite Movie: Remember the Titans, Radio, Miracle, and Friday Night Lights. The ones that I have enjoyed go back in time or feature some event or time period that happened to be a pinnacle in someone's life or had an effect on a group of people.

Hobbies/Interests: I enjoy ordering raw coffee beans and roasting them myself...taking a bean and roasting it to varying degrees of darkness and seeing how it turns out, and being able to get good beans from around the world. A part of the coffee roasting means you have to brew a cup of coffee, so I love having conversations over a cup of coffee with people. I also enjoy journaling and I like college football.
I enjoy historical perspectives on life. That's probably the reason why I enjoy being somewhat involved in public works. I remember from my construction days when we would dig or start a construction project, as we dug into the ground you would see historically what people had done over the years for the they built the manhole, how they decided to connect two pipes, ingenious things they did, difficulties they encountered, and the materials they used. I enjoy knowing a little about the history of either where I'm living or what I'm involved with, to help honor those things that have been done and also to not necessarily repeat something that's already been done or been tried.

Role Model: Academically/professionally, in the transportation area one of my professors from A&M was Dr. Dan Fambro. He passed away some six years ago at a very young age. He was the one that put the belief in me to go to graduate school and to pursue my professional skills after I graduated by being involved in professional associations.

For life skills on how to think ahead, how to plan and how to set goals, there's a friend that I have coffee with that's from the World War II generation and his name is Charlie Jones. He's a local business owner and has done well for himself, and he talks a lot about how to handle your money, how to handle your future and how to set goals. I admire him because he does what he advises and has real-world stories to back his advice.

My pastor from church, Todd Kussman, helps me with my Christian spiritual growth. I have tremendous respect for how he has developed his own faith, raised his family, handled his ministry, stays level headed and balanced his life.

Career Accomplishments: I successfully obtained my Professional Engineering license, and that's always a milestone in an engineer's life. Through the National LTAP, APWA and ITE [Institute of Transportation Engineers], I've been asked to either be an officer or sit on committees and add input into developing whatever those committees were wanting. I've also been able to develop my public speaking skills because of my role here at the LTAP Center.

Tell us more about Indiana LTAP: Indiana LTAP is housed at Purdue University and functions as a branch of the Civil Engineering Department. There is an LTAP in every state of the union. There are LTAPs that serve the tribal communities only, which are called TTAPs. And then there's the LTAP in Puerto Rico. All together there are fifty-seven LTAP Centers. Essentially, from the beginning, Purdue University was asked to be one of the ten pilot programs for FHWA [Federal Highway Administration]. The pilots were successful and FHWA was directed by the U.S. Congress to expand the program to all states. Each state matches the funding to various degrees with the sole objective of reaching out to local governments to improve their roads and bridges by supplying them with a variety of training programs, an information clearinghouse, new and existing technology updates, personalized technical assistance and newsletters.

At Indiana LTAP we do a lot. We host four major conferences throughout the year, twelve or thirteen workshops, and then we field various e-mails and questions in our daily work. For our big conferences, we host the county bridge conference, the stormwater drainage conference, and a statewide conference called the Purdue Road School which is a great partnership between the DOT and locals and the private sector. Anybody who's involved with transportation in the State of Indiana comes to Purdue once a year for this big conference. We have concurrent sessions dealing with all the hot topics that are happening in Indiana at that time, and we help coordinate and facilitate the conference and put together all the sessions. We host the snowplow rodeo here in Indiana and it has turned out to be a very successful event, due in large part from the advice from APWA National and the APWA Michigan Chapter on how to coordinate it.

You've been a member of APWA's Education Advisory Committee and Congress Program Review Committee. Tell us about your involvement with those committees: I decided to accept those appointments for a couple of reasons. One is, I thought I could make a contribution to the committees in terms of what I understood were needed issues by public works officials. But at the same time, especially with the one concerning the APWA Congress, when you're reading through the different proposals, you get a better handle on the national perspective of what public works officials are dealing with. So, I went into that one in particular just to see if there were any topics I might have been missing out on that I could bring into Indiana, and also get perspective on the topics that I understood on whether they should be included or not in the Congress, what angle the speaker should take, or what the speaker should add to his presentation to help the audience out some.

The Education Advisory Committee was very interesting because we were, at that time, very excited when the Click, Listen & Learn program was developed. Our LTAP Center has hosted most of the Click, Listen & Learns since their inception. We send out faxes and notices and people drive in, and usually they're around lunchtime so we order pizza. If there's some local perspective that someone in Indiana is an expert in, we'll bring them in to speak after the Click, Listen & Learn is over.

I was excited to be able to dissect all the different topics that APWA could offer through the Click, Listen & Learns and offer advice and speaker suggestions. And over the last four or five years the relationship between LTAP and APWA has grown very strong and very healthy. I just wanted to do my part in helping keep that tie strong.

Why do you like being a member of APWA? Originally, when I started my career at the LTAP Center, I tried out different organizations with no particular draw to any one of them, just to see how they'd help what I do at the LTAP Center. What I like about being part of the American Public Works Association is that a large segment of my audience is the same audience that you all serve. I like to look at how APWA is treating their members and their audience and see if I can mimic in some way some of those characteristics.

We conduct our educational sessions and workshops like APWA, and also worked with your staff to learn how to do an equipment show. We've sold booths and organize our own equipment show, but obviously what we do on our Indiana level is nowhere near the Congress equipment show. But all the helpful hints that we've received from Diana [Forbes, APWA Meetings Planner/Exhibit Sales Manager] and Brenda [Shaver, APWA Manager of Meetings] on how to run an equipment show have made our equipment shows here in Indiana very successful.

So I don't try to be more than what APWA is, I just try to learn from their successes and implement those things in Indiana so we can be as successful as possible. That's where the helping out on the committees has come an appreciation that says, "Hey, you've helped us out and I'd like to help you all back." And like I said, when I go to a Congress or a Snow Conference, it provides me with education. I learn different things through your motivational speakers and your management speakers and people like that. I learn from vendors the kind of things they look for when people come to show floors and what makes a successful show for them. And then I learn from the guy I sit next to in the sessions as to what makes for a good session or what makes for a bad session. When I host a classroom-style topic I can make sure it's as tight and as valuable as it can be.

So, the professional growth plus the sharpening of the Indiana LTAP Center is why I enjoy being a member.