Launch Slideshow

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Top Leaders

Top Leaders

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    Steven Hansen's greatest challenge is maintaining aging infrastructure. Incorporated in 1829, Liberty, Mo., juggles the need to meet demands of a growing population with system components that date back 100 years or more. Photo: Sara Cooke

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    Morton, Ill., superintendent of public works Bob Wraight credits his organization's efficiency to its horizontal structure. “The more levels there are between the top and the bottom, the more communication breakdowns there are,” he says. Photo: Marc Nix

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    Kurt Corey poses with Lily the Pacific Green Tree Frog, the mascot for SPLASH (Stormwater Pollution: Learn and Share), an educational outreach program in Eugene, Ore. Photo: Kurt Corey

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    As former commissioner of transportation and works for the Regional Municipality of York, Ontario, Kees Schipper served a community that grew by an average of 40,000 people per year. Photo: Gail Lemieux

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    In 2005, Larry Lux visited Australia to compare the country's emergency management programs to American programs. He attended Australian football games, and got up close and personal with kangaroos, dingos, wombats, and fairy penguins. Photo: Larry Lux

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Playing politics

Roger Flint explains how to work with elected officials.

One of the most notable changes Roger Flint has observed in his 20-year career is a gradual shift in the municipal power balance.

For example, during his tenure as public works and utilities director, Spokane, Wash., moved from a “city manager” form of government to a “strong mayor” government—a trend common to agencies across the country.

“We're moving away from determining the best engineering solution to having to incorporate ‘political engineering,'” he says. “It doesn't make it wrong—it just makes it different.”

The key to dealing with elected officials and the public is learning to speak their language. “You can't go to a city council meeting and throw out acronyms and go into lengths about physics,” he says. “Boil technical issues down to something the average person can understand.”

Standing your ground is also important. “Always do the right thing for your community and try not to bow to political pressures,” he says. “Work hard to convince the politician that doing the right thing will always lead to the best political result as well. When that happens, the entire community will win.”

Roger Flint, vice president and Spokane area manager for CH2M Hill
  • Years in public works: 20
  • City stats: Until leaving for CH2M Hill in May, Flint was public works and utilities director for Spokane, Wash., which has 195,000 residents.
  • Education: Eastern Washington University, where he received a degree in business management and a master's degree in public administration.
  • Three wishes: Roads with no potholes, a pristine environment, and low utility rates for citizens.