Women leading the way

Last year's APWA show marked the debut of the Women in Public Works open forum. “The event was started to see if women in the public works profession wanted to get together and talk about their issues,” says Susan M. Hann, deputy city manager of Palm Bay, Fla., and one of the panelists. The response was “outstanding”; the conference room was packed to capacity with about 70 women—and two male representatives of the association's Diversity Committee, who ended up the target of some good-natured ribbing.

Over the course of the forum, attendees discussed their career paths, shared success stories and pitfalls, and talked about how women just starting out in the public works field can get ahead. Both beginners and seasoned professionals learned a great deal during the session. “I learned that most issues in public works are really not gender-specific,” says Hann.


Thanks to the success of last year's forum, the program is returning with A View From the Top—Women in Public Works Talk About Their Lives and Careers (Tuesday, Sept. 12, 1 to 2:15 p.m.). Panelists include Hann; Kansas City planning group leader Patricia Hilderbrand; Los Angeles public affairs director Cora Jackson-Fossett; New York City Office of Emergency Management director of plan management MaryAnn E. Marrocolo; Hillsborough County, Fla., general manager III Marianna Llanso; and Montgomery County, Md., fleet management division chief Sharon Subadan. The panelists will build upon last year's discussion of the challenges women in public works face, and the unique contributions they can make.

“I often find that I am the only woman in a room filled with men as we discuss and debate many issues,” says Subadan. “In my experience, this is more of an opportunity than a challenge, as I am able to bring a different perspective to problem solving.” In addition to the forum, the association is presenting its first Women in Public Works Breakfast (Monday, Sept. 11, 7 to 8:30 a.m.). Charlottesville, Va., public works director Judy Mueller, a former APWA president, will lead attendees in an open-discussion forum. A separate fee is required. Contact Ann Daniels at adaniels@apwa.net for more information.

Building your people

Public works professionals are constantly concerned with the construction and maintenance of their town's infrastructure. In People Work Ahead! Workplace Transformation Begins With You (Sunday, Sept. 10, 3 to 3:50 p.m.), Paul Fontecchio, principal pavement engineer for the city of Green Bay, Wis., suggests PW leaders should develop their people, too. “We'll be discussing what I consider to be the most important part of our job—leading and managing people,” says Fontecchio. As the son of an Army captain, he says, “I grew up understanding very clearly what it meant to follow orders, what a good chain of command was, and how to lead.” Session attendees will learn how to develop their staff, and transform work-place attitudes through time-honored principles and concrete suggestions.

Feeling your way

Many believe emotions have no place in the workplace. In fact, research shows that intelligent use of emotions can actually translate directly into improving employee performance. During Transform Your Workplace Using Emotional Intelligence (Monday, Sept. 11, 11 to 11:50 a.m.), David Chambers, director of public works for Aurora, Colo., will relate how the city's Street and Traffic Division implemented the principles and a strengths-based approach to employee relationships. Attendees will come away from the session with the tools to improve their work environment to improve their work environment and gain skills for their own professional and personal lives.

A public works call to arms

“The public works profession is in dire need of strong leaders who can motivate their people and communicate effectively,” says Robert Hyde, director of public works and engineer for the city of Anacortes, Wash. “Public works leaders often set goals too low, fearing failure and lacking confidence in their abilities to achieve above and beyond the marginal.”

During 15 Steps to Public Works Greatness (Monday, Sept. 11, 2 to 2:50 p.m.), Hyde will draw upon his two decades of experience in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps in outlining steps that public works professionals should follow to lead their agencies to greatness.

Keys to success

If you have your sights set on rising higher in the public works ranks, this session can offer insight into the skills and qualities you will need to get ahead. In Core Competencies: Your Foothold on the Public Works Ladder (Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2:30 to 3:20 p.m.), a panel of recent APWA Manager of the Year award recipients will share key qualities they feel contributed to their professional success.

“With shrinking funding and subsequent pushes to privatize services, it is imperative that public works field staff be trained to the highest levels as they relate to techniques and procedures,” says panelist Cameron Harper, manager of maintenance management for Clark County, Nev. Other presenters include Michael S. Ross, assistant city engineer of Overland Park, Kan.; and Mary Ann Summerfield, director of parks and recreation for the city of Tulsa, Okla.

Getting the message across

In Lower Merion Township, Penn., the public works staffers are stars. Director of public works Donald K. Cannon and his crew star in a popular government-access television show that gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at pothole repair, refuse collection, snow removal, capital improvements, stormwater management, and all things public works. With The Public Works Pipeline: Effectively Communicating to the Public (Wednesday, Sept. 12, 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.), Cannon and public information officer Brenda Viola will discuss how they have used this unique tool to improve employee morale, maximize their message, and foster