If you have time for just one tourist activity in San Antonio, says public works  director Tom Wendorf, remember the Alamo.
If you have time for just one tourist activity in San Antonio, says public works director Tom Wendorf, remember the Alamo.

September 2007 is the first time the American Public Works Association (APWA) has brought its convention to San Antonio. But for public works director Tom Wendorf, hosting the annual gathering of professionals—and mobilizing his 850 employees to ensure a smooth event—is one of his specialties.

So far this year, the city has hosted the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, and The Asphalt Institute. If you're here at APWA's Congress, Wendorf's already welcomed you to his city during the opening ceremony. (He's been preparing for your arrival since 2000, when he asked APWA to consider San Antonio.) You can see him again on Sunday, Sept. 9, when he reprises a presentation on coordinating utility projects that he delivered earlier this year for the Associated General Contractors; and at Wednesday's onsite street reconstruction demonstration featuring warm-mix asphalt.

If you're not here, you can still learn from Wendorf.

A civil engineer with a master's degree in public administration, he's one of those infrastructure managers who seems to toggle effortlessly between the political and the technical demands of the role. He has to; his job depends on it. The nation's seventh-largest city, San Antonio is a popular convention and vacation destination that's expected to add 1 million residents by mid-century. Its southern Texas location makes it vulnerable to flash flooding whenever hurricanes make their way up through the Gulf of Mexico. If Wendorf can't convince elected officials and the public how critical streets and sewers are to generating revenue, the city will have trouble keeping its fiscal head above water.

Since becoming San Antonio's public works director in 2001, Wendorf's positioned himself as the city's advocate for public works, leaving much of the oversight of day-to-day operations to assistant director Jason Cosby. I managed to catch Wendorf right after a round of interviews with several job candidates and before heading into a city council meeting to propose his 2008 budget, which includes $62 million for street maintenance—double the amount he had to work with in 2001. In fact, under his leadership, the city has approved more than $1 billion through bond programs for infrastructure.

So this is a busy time of year for Wendorf. And playing host to APWA on top of it all? Well, they always say if you need to get something done, give it to someone who's already busy. So, way to go, Tom and crew—and thanks for opening your city to us this month.

Not able to make it to the APWA this year? Don't worry, PUBLIC WORKS Magazine will be reporting live from the show. Be sure to stop by and check out our one-stop resource for everything APWA related.

Stephanie Johnston
Editor in Chief