Orange County public works director Bill Baxter, left, accepts his Top Ten award from APWA president-elect Bob Freudenthal. Photo: Orange County Public Works
Bill Baxter stands at the helm of one of the biggest public works agencies in Florida, with an operational budget of $70 million and a capital improvement budget of nearly S200 million. In addition to his role as public works director, Baxter serves as county engineer. Understandably, his myriad duties keep him busy, usually away from his office. “For the past couple of weeks, I've hardly seen him for more than 20 seconds at a time,” said Ralyne West-enhofer. Baxter's executive assistant.
In addition to juggling an insane schedule, Baxter's significant challenges include tangling with the infrastructure of a bustling, swiftly growing area. “We live in a community of 1 million people impacted by 500,000 visitors weekly,” said Baxter. ‘The challenge of growth makes Orange County a unique area. It has placed a burden on our infrastructure that is difficult to match.”
One solution: building public-private partnerships to facilitate much-needed infrastructure improvements. For example, for road construction projects, Baxter encourages developers to provide the required right of way and construction plans, while the county funds the construction itself. This innovative approach enables his agency to build many more miles of roads than would be possible otherwise.
“By combining our resources, we have been able to be successful,” said Baxter. When Baxter joined the agency in 1982, Orange County had 300 miles of unpaved, maintained roads. Today, all of those roads are paved.
Baxter finds time to be an active citizen outside of his work as public works director. He has served as an adult leader in the Boy Scouts of America, garnering the District Award of Merit for his contributions. He also gives time to his church, working on the parish school board and, as a member of the church building committee, overseeing construction of a new $1 million facility.