Launch Slideshow

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View from the top

View from the top

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Regulation reliever

Why change anything when you've had as much variety as Joe Superneau?

Over three decades, the executive director for the Water and Sewer Commission in Springfield, Mass., has served the public through positions in both the public and private sectors, working for local and state governments as well as a consulting firm.

Now in his 10th year with the commission, Superneau's the force behind such feats as compliance with an EPA consent order to reduce combined sewer overflows on the Mill and Chicopee rivers. Plus, he has two similar projects under construction, costing nearly $26 million. The ultimate goal for the projects, funded by a combination of low-interest state revolving fund loans and traditionalrevenue bonds, is to reduce the number of overflows from as high as 80 in some areas to no more than four in a typical year.

While he does admit to some concern over the industry's ability to meet environmental regulations, he's confident that its place in society will remain. "You'll always need to plow the snow and have safe drinking water," he says. "Public works is fundamental to how people live."

He's most proud of his ability to discover solutions to the problems faced by the commission and greater Springfield community, and to those just making their way into the profession, he suggests being courageous enough to go beyond the conventional to create and implement real-world solutions.

Tireless trouper

After 41 years, William Verkest is still going strong.

In January, the one-time U.S. Air Force civil engineer became director of transportation and public works for Fort Worth, the fifth-largest city in Texas. He's the oldest APWA member on the organization's list of top leaders this year.

With degrees in both civil engineering and public administration, Verkest spent some time in the private sector working for engineering firm HDR Inc. before transitioning permanently to the public sector.

"It's the significance of doing something for somebody every day," he says of his preference for a work environment that presents continuous challenges. He's developed "Public Works 150," Fort Worth's plan for crafting a public works department capable of meeting the demands of a city twice Fort Worth's population, to approximately 150,000. The plan is a continuum, examining the mission statement, strategic initiatives, objectives, actions plans, and performance measures.

When considering his career, Verkest believes his greatest asset is the ability to lead various public works organizations to success. "This business has been a love affair for me," he says. "I'm happy to have done it."

To the younger professionals who hope to one day attain his level of fulfillment, Verkest offers this: "Be proud of what you do. What you're doing is so very, very important."