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Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

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    Photo: Bryan Haraway / Getty Images

    Qiong Liu, deputy public works director/city engineer for the city of North Las Vegas.

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    Photo: City of Oregon City

    Nancy J.T. Kraushaar, right, public works director and city engineer for Oregon City, Ore.

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    Photo: City of Hays.

    Brenda Herrmann, director of public works for Hays, Kan.

Like Liu, Kraushaar believes that being a woman doesn't necessarily make it harder to work in public works—just different.

“There are times when it takes some soul searching and positive thoughts to pull together the confidence to face certain situations,” she says. “But I don't think that has to do with being a woman—it's human nature.”

Leadership

Brenda Herrman
Director of public works
Hays, Kan.
Population: 20,013
Area: 7.6 square miles

At the age of 42, Herrman was a divorced mother of two, working as an administrative secretary and looking for a fresh start. She earned a degree in public administration and joined the city clerk's office in Wichita Falls, Kan., as a staff assistant. When she transferred to the city's public works office as administrative secretary in 1989, though, she was treated to a crash course in the ins and outs of managing infrastructure.

“The city was hosting the APWA's Texas chapter spring conference in June of 1990,” she says. “At that point, I didn't really understand all the aspects that make up a public works department, but for the first six months I was totally focused on it.”

Gender isn't high on Herrman's list of challenges. That list includes departmental downsizing, aging infrastructure, and dwindling funds, made less daunting by her natural ability to lead others and learn quickly. Least among her worries: her lack of an engineering degree.

“I am an administrator, not an engineer,” she says. “I never had any desire to become one. My city manager once told me that I don't have to know every detail of what goes on in the public works arena, but I do have to lead the people and manage the resources to be effective. I can do that.”