Common sense says that positions requiring technical knowledge of the various systems that create a public various system works department should be led by a person who has a background in engineering.
But several municipalities in New York alone have downgraded positions to hire a political appointee. Sometimes cost was cited as the reason; in others, the appointee makes more. Either way, the engineer is more qualified. In addition to the education and experience required for licensure, the engineer is a public servant bound by a code of ethics to make decisions based on the public welfare.
Political appointees may know a lot about the administrative processes that need to take place in every municipality, but their knowledge isn't comparable to that of a licensed professional engineer. With our infrastructure in disarray due to insufficient funding for maintenance, it's irresponsible to appoint an unqualified person to oversee its operation.
Our organization is considering its options based on the proliferation of cases in which an unlicensed person is appointed to positions where public health and safety are at risk. We're on record as either litigating, expressing concern, or publishing a position regarding New York City, Colonie, Syracuse, and other authorities that have downgraded the title of Professional Engineer for agency head to favor an administrator or political appointee.
— Kelly Norris, executive director,
New York State
Society of Professional Engineers