Larry. W. Frevert

We are, we can, we will

Larry W. Frevert, P.E.
APWA President

Editor's Note: After being introduced to the 2007 APWA Congress Opening General Session attendees as the 72nd President of the American Public Works Association, Larry Frevert acknowledged the service of immediate Past President Bill Verkest and outgoing Board of Directors members Bob Freudenthal, Howard LaFever and Dale Houdeshell; introduced and thanked his family for their love and support; and acknowledged the Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year. Frevert then made the following remarks:

I want to recognize you, the members of APWA. You have given your confidence in me and allowed me to be your president. It is a capstone of a career, it is a tremendous honor for me and it is an honor that I take very seriously. I will work hard every day to fulfill that confidence that you have in me.

I have developed seven priorities for my year as president. These will be shared this afternoon in the first-ever APWA Thought Leader presentation (President Frevert's priorities are listed in his article beginning on page 11 in this issue - Ed.). It starts at two o'clock and is a session called the Myron Calkins Symposium. It's sponsored every year at the Congress by my home chapter, the Kansas City Metro Chapter, in recognition of Myron Calkins, a Past President of APWA, and a wonderful man who is here with us this week.

But if you have other things going on and can't attend today's Thought Leader presentation, I have prepared an open letter to the members of APWA and I have a thousand copies of that here with me. So if you would like to have a copy of that letter, stop me and I would like to talk about the priorities that we have developed in harmony with the Board of Directors, with the staff, with the Finance Committee, and with leaders of our Technical Committees.

I am formally, officially and respectfully asking for your help as we pursue these seven priorities. It's going to take us all; it's going to be a big job. Some of you may well say, "I'm too busy to help with these." Some of you may well say, "This isn't my responsibility." Some of you may well say, "Why now? Why me? Why us?" I know you are busy. Ours is a very demanding profession, trying to satisfy the public on a regular basis. But the needs we face in public works are great, and it takes great people. People like you that are here in this room. Please ask yourself, "If not me, who? If not now, when?"

In June your Board of Directors adopted a guidance position statement developed by the Leadership and Management Committee entitled "Building a Better Future." I would like to share four principles of that statement with you this morning:

  • The great public works projects in history have been the results of leaders describing a better future that results from building those better projects.
  • A new approach is needed.
  • Leaders can't be pessimists; we can't continue to describe how bad things are becoming.
  • What is needed is a positive, inspiring vision for the future, one that can motivate citizens to take action.

I thank the Leadership and Management Committee for having the foresight in developing this statement about how we're going to build a better future for the public, for public works and for APWA.

A few minutes ago I introduced to you my family, including my mom and dad, my uncle and aunt. They are members of the "Greatest Generation," oftentimes called that by the media and by others. They were children during the Great Depression. My dad and my uncle are heroes in my eyes. They fought for our country and our very way of life in World War II. They came back from that service, they got married and they raised families. Earlier this summer we helped my mom and dad celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary, and next summer we will help my uncle and aunt celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary. They worked hard to make life better for their kids than what they had. My dad spent forty-three years in the public works profession working for the Missouri Department of Transportation, and my uncle spent a career in the U.S. Air Force and retired a full colonel. Thank you to the "Greatest Generation." They answered the call. They said, "It's my watch. I'll make it happen."

Now it's our turn. It's our "watch." Do we have what it takes to build a better future? We are the best-educated workforce in history, and we have the greatest technology ever. It's time to say:

  • "We are."
  • "We can."
  • "We will."

We have the capability to put a man on the moon, to split an atom and to create an artificial heart. We have the capability to build safer roads, provide plentiful drinking water, control pollution and improve the quality of life.

"We are, we can, we will." We can make a difference today and there's no time like the present to do it. There are great challenges ahead of us in public works. But I know with the people in this room, and the other members of our 29,000-member APWA, that we're going to achieve them.

"If not now, when?"

"If not me, who?"

Thank you for your commitment to public works and your membership in APWA. Thank you for your confidence in me. Thank you for being here in San Antonio for the APWA Congress this week.