Game changer: Cooperative partnerships

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Bob Gordon, PE, leads more than 65 employees who serve an area of 7 square miles in Temple Terrace, Fla. He manages the 18-department program budget, which includes a capital-improvement fund of $22 million. Previously, Gordon was director of public works in Hillsborough County, Fla., with a department of more than 600 employees covering an area of 1,072 square miles and a population of more than 1 million. Gordon has played an integral role in implementing numerous engineering projects. Photo: APWA

ROBERT GORDON, PE

DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS
TEMPLE TERRACE, FLA.

“The best leaders will be expert at facilitating cooperative partnerships,” says Bob Gordon. “Accelerated cooperation among public works professionals will expand opportunities for local and regional partnerships for solutions to local problems.”

Shrinking resources are driving the trend.

“When tax revenues were higher, there were more options for providing services and each jurisdiction sought independent solutions,” he says. “We can no longer afford that luxury and must work with adjacent jurisdictions and the private sector to pool resources to achieve the most cost-effective solutions.”

For example, he's lowered street-sweeping, debris disposal, and fleet costs by outsourcing sweeping to a contractor, and he's considering out-sourcing fleet maintenance to a neighboring jurisdiction to reduce costs and increase vehicle availability.

Similarly, rather than build a plant, the city's negotiating to purchase treatment capacity from a neighboring jurisdiction. Further, Gordon's managers are exploring the interconnection of reclaimed water systems by using a matching grant from a water management district.

“Public works officials are in a unique position to see an opportunity for a partnership that will result in efficiencies,” says Gordon. “Gone are the days when we had the resources to go it alone.”