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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Benefiting from backup

Support makes Kees Schipper's job easier.

Kees Schipper considers himself lucky. His 35-year career has taken him to some very rewarding places, most recently as commissioner of transportation and works for the Regional Municipality of York, Ontario.

“I've been extremely fortunate to go to work every day at a job I enjoyed,” he says. “York was a very exciting place to work, with our region growing by 40,000 people each year, and the roads, transit, and water/wastewater systems constantly under strain to keep up.”

He says he's been blessed with three things every public works leader should have in his or her support system: a strong council, administrative leadership, and internal public works team.

“Our council was both bold and prudent,” says Schipper. “They took risks where they needed to, but they were financially careful. The administration leadership was always supportive and understanding of the challenges we faced. The seven directors who reported to me formed a strong team effort, with a lot of mutual trust. If you can take on a responsible job and have that kind of support, then you'll be successful.”

In February, Schipper retired from his position in York, but he's not sitting still. He serves as program director for the Greater Toronto Transit Authority rail expansion program, working on a $1 billion ($894 million U.S.) project to upgrade the area's rail system.

Kees Schipper, former commissioner of transportation and works, Regional Municipality of York, Ontario
  • Years in public works: 35
  • Municipality stats: The Regional Municipality of York is home to 900,000 people; the department staff, with 450 employees, works with a capital budget ranging from $600 million to $700 million ($536 million to $626 million U.S.), and an operating budget of $300 million ($268 million U.S.).
  • First job: On weekends and during the summer, his father enlisted him to help out with his painting business.
  • Fun fact: In his spare time, Schipper is “a bad golfer and a bad skier.”