The Sunday welcome reception at last year's APWA Congress and Exposition in Minneapolis included games and several meeting opportunities.
Photo: APWA The Sunday welcome reception at last year's APWA Congress and Exposition in Minneapolis included games and several meeting opportunities.

I think it is fair to state that the sheer scope and complexity of our chosen profession is both its finest attribute and biggest challenge. Name another career choice that encompasses so much—storm-water, traffic calming, right of way management, emergency management, winter maintenance, human resources, solid waste, and grounds maintenance—just a few of the topics that may fall within public works' jurisdiction.

As professionals, how do we stay ahead of the curve on the myriad issues we confront on a day-to-day basis? I can't think of a better way to keep abreast with the latest advances than attending the 2006 American Public Works Association's (APWA) Congress and Exposition in Kansas City, Mo., Sept. 10–13.

I guarantee you will leave the Congress and Exposition thinking differently about how to confront the public works challenges you face. Here's a sampling of what's in store for you in Kansas City:

New Orleans' Flood Protection System—Was Katrina the Culprit? Interested in hearing in-depth analysis of the catastrophic failure of the New Orleans regional flood protection systems during Hurricane Katrina? Raymond Seed, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, will speak about his National Science Foundation-sponsored independent investigation into the levee failures.

His team's findings suggest a wide range of design and construction defects in levees around New Orleans that raise serious concerns about the level of protection the $3.1 billion repair effort provides. Seed also will present a number of lessons learned regarding changes that need to be made at local, state, and federal levels to protect not only New Orleans, but other communities in North America.

100,000 square feet of the coolest stuff in public works— Can you think of another place where you can talk with representatives from more than 400 companies displaying the latest and greatest in public works technology and equipment? Need a new piece of heavy equipment? Talk to the biggest names in construction equipment who will be displaying everything from skidsteer loaders to road graders. Looking for asset management or geographical information systems? Again, representatives will be displaying their wares. You'll learn more in two hours on the exhibit floor than in a day of looking online or on the phone.

The absolute best place to network in the business—Let's admit it: Our jobs are demanding, leaving little time to meet and interact with our peers in public works. APWA's Congress is the only national event that gathers the industry together for four days of education, business, and fun.

With more than 6000 public works professionals from public agencies, engineering firms, and the vendor community, the APWA show is designed to let you meet with your peers, share your experiences, and network with some of the best and brightest in the business.

On behalf of APWA, please join us in Kansas City this September. If you can choose only one event to attend this year, this is the one that will get you ahead of the curve. For more information, including online registration, visit

— Bob Freudenthal is president of the APWA and deputy general manager for the Hendersonville (Tenn.) Utility District.