Launch Slideshow

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Rising to the challenge

Rising to the challenge

  • John Bernal

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    John Bernal

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  • H. Reed Fowler

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    H. Reed Fowler

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  • Bret Hodne

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    Bret Hodne

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  • Joseph Johnson

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    Joseph Johnson

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  • Stuart Moring

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    Stuart Moring

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  • William Pugh

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    William Pugh

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  • Peter Steblin

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    Peter Steblin

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  • Gary Warren

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    Gary Warren

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Sharing the burden

Frank “Cheech” DeCelles, Public works director, Plantation, Fla.

DeCelles takes the philosophy of “doing more with less” to heart. To ensure his department gets the most out of its most valuable resource—namely, its people—he established an extensive cross-training program that makes each employee capable of wearing many hats.

“Each employee shares his or her knowledge, experience, and training with at least three other employees outside of their division,” he says. “An example would be an irrigation technician working as a carpenter's helper during the rainy season.”

Trees and sidewalks are another area of accomplishment. DeCelles established the Sidewalk Division, whose attentive maintenance of the nearly 500 miles of sidewalk has helped reduce liability issues. In addition, his crews maintain 17,000 trees, including an average of 300 new plantings each year.

Building morale

Stuart Moring, PE, Director of public works, Roswell, Ga.

When Roswell's transportation director left in April 2006, Moring was asked to take over the position, in addition to his regular duties as director of public works. Growth in Roswell and other cities in the region had led to loss of several key staff, and eroding morale.

To reverse the downslide, Moring worked to keep staff informed, involve them in strategic planning, and applaud them for above-and-beyond efforts.

“With patience and diligence, I was able to hire some exceptional employees to supplement the excellent staff we already had,” he says. “The departments are now functioning very well, and the Transportation Department has the finest management team ever.”

Other departments and municipalities frequently turn to Moring for guidance. For example, he's been asked to help out with designing a major sewer expansion in Albany, Ga., as well as managing the merger of two large water distribution systems in Kentucky.

“As I've moved from technical to managerial work, I've recognized the importance of selecting and developing quality staff,” he says. “My greatest accomplishment has been surrounding myself with bright, hard-working people.”

Home sweet home

William Pugh, Public works director. Tacoma, Wash.

Tacoma's downtown core and supporting infrastructure needed some serious sprucing up.

Pugh was instrumental in bringing to life the Urban Village Local Improvement District, an 11-block area that represents more than $300 million in private-development construction, and transforming the Thea Foss Waterway area from blight to brilliance.

To accomplish this, Pugh worked to acquire 27 acres of brownfields along the waterway's west side. Today, the property consists of retail and residential spaces, a pedestrian bridge connecting to downtown, and glass art by the renowned Dale Chihuly. The city's success in using public-private partnerships to make the projects possible has drawn the attention of leaders in neighboring cities, as well as praise from constituents.

“Our citizens and leaders understand and embrace the broader definition of ‘environment'—what makes someone call a place home, how it includes people, businesses, culture, and history, as well as our natural systems,” he says.

Rolling along

Joseph Johnson, PE, Director of public works, Leawood, Kans.

Without a healthy fleet, any public works department will be brought to a screeching halt.

Johnson realized this when he implemented a program in Leawood's Fleet Maintenance Division that developed a vehicle replacement policy and list for all city vehicles. By meeting once a year to review the fleet program for each department and discuss anticipated needs, price changes, and other concerns, Johnson, his department's fleet manager, and other city managers keep costs manageable and avoid surprises.

“We forecast costs five to six years out, which helps maintain a somewhat level annual expense,” he says. “This also allows the city to get the most effective service life out of vehicles before replacement.”

When discussing his success in effectively managing fleet costs, NPDES compliance, and other achievements, Johnson credits his staff.

“I have the honor of working with some of the best people in the field,” he says. “Their work and dedication have provided me with many opportunities to get involved with these varying projects and programs.”

Calling for backup

Peter Steblin, PE, City engineer, London, Ontario.

London's sewer system had been crumbling for decades. While constituents and elected officials recognized the need to upgrade the infrastructure, getting the necessary funding would require significant rate increases. Steblin and his team successfully lobbied to make it happen.

“We've obtained political approval for increases in the order of 30% over the last three years, providing the funding necessary to move forward on numerous projects,” says Steblin. “These projects have dramatically reduced flooding, increased the rate of our lifecycle replacement strategies, and moved construction of a new membrane filtration treatment system forward.”

Steblin also helped develop a consortium of 14 municipalities and other area agencies to improve water and waste-water infrastructure throughout the region. The group's efforts to gain support from constituents and elected officials has resulted in the approval of a $300 million proposal to fund various water-quality improvement plans.