Placing PW at the top

Steven Hansen works to earn respect for PW departments.

As director of public works for Liberty, Mo., Steven Hansen has seen firsthand how catastrophes like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina affect public works nationwide.

The attacks spurred a calling for better protection of critical infrastructure. Rising oil costs have caused fuel and paving costs to soar, cutting into already strained budgets. While the disasters highlighted the importance of public works departments in emergency response, he says, more needs to be done to develop relationships among local public works departments and federal safety agencies. “Safety agencies still feel like they're the key responders, but public works is an integral part of emergency response,” says Hansen. “There needs to be more cooperation with—and recognition by—safety agencies that public works departments are just as important as they are.”

In addition, Hansen wishes he could lead his department with increased funding, a larger staff, and lower construction costs. However, it's important to remember your agency isn't alone in clamoring for a piece of the city's revenue pie.

“Public works isn't the only department in the city,” he says. “Until we have the revenue to support all we want to do, we can't achieve all of it without sacrificing in some other area. We all serve the same person—the citizen—and they deserve all of those critical services.”

Steven Hansen, director of public works, Liberty, Mo.

  • Years in public works: 30
  • City stats: Liberty, a suburb of Kansas City, is home to 30,000 residents. The 32-employee public works department has an annual operating budget of $6.5 million.
  • First job: While working in a local greenhouse, Hansen was helping replace some glass when he fell through a roof panel.
  • Fun fact: Hansen is a self-proclaimed tinkerer—he likes to work on cars and fix things around his house.