Curt Spannraft

Name: Allen Persons
Title: Public Works Director
Where: Village of Plainfield, Ill.
Population: 40,000
What: 40 employees provide street maintenance, traffic control, water quality, wastewater collection and treatment, and storm sewer maintenance.
Operating budget: $20 million
Capital budget: $5 million

When Allen Persons began working for Plainfield, the village water system was out of compliance and seven public works employees served 2,500 residents from an old garage with no indoor plumbing.

They’ve come a long way in 25 years. Today, 40 employees serve almost 40,000 residents out of a new 75,000-square-foot facility, and an $18 million North Wastewater Treatment Facility expansion undertaken in 2008 is enabling the village to meet ever-greater industrial demand while remaining in regulatory compliance.

During high school in the farming community of Oswego, Ill., Persons worked part time for the Aurora Sanitary District repairing wastewater pumps. He decided to pursue a career in public works. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, he joined Plainfield’s staff as a water/wastewater operator. He was promoted to chief operator, superintendent of the water/wastewater division, and finally to director of public works for 15 years.

Like Persons, many of his team members began in entry-level positions and worked their way up, gaining new skills, degrees, and certifications along the way. He helped by encouraging employees to get involved in the American Public Works Association Chicago Chapter’s Southwest Branch. Two have held nine executive positions in the association.

“A new generation of field employees not only provides outstanding service; they continue to improve their skills,” Persons says. “If you think our new facility, Lake Michigan Water Pumping Station, or 200 miles of new roadways are cool, just wait until you meet our staff. They’re the best in our business.”