Best idea: Choosing public works
JOHN LAWLOR JR.
PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR
Service to his country, both overseas and in his hometown, is the driving force behind John Lawlor Jr.'s career as an engineer, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and infrastructure manager.
Before joining Waterbury's public works department 22 years ago, Lawlor worked as an engineer for consulting firms and had been offered a job in Singapore.
When a family member suggested he apply for a job in Connecticut instead, he says, “something inside of me said I ought to take the opportunity.” He figured he'd work for Waterbury awhile before eventually heading for Singapore. But he never got there. “I got a taste of municipal engineering and have been working in the community ever since.”
His travel opportunities didn't end, however.
In 2004, Lawlor took a leave of absence and was deployed to Iraq, where he spent nearly a year as Public Works Team Chief supporting relief and rebuilding efforts. Returning home from a country devastated by war, Lawlor realized his perspective had changed. “It was hard to readjust to American standards of crisis — like a pothole,” he says. “When you have 6 million people and no drinking water, that's a crisis.
“Some people feel the big, multimillion-dollar projects are what enrich the profession,” he continues. “That's great stuff, and I've done those as well. But I still enjoy the personal interaction: shaking people's hands, looking them in the eye, and resolving their problems in short order. I like the easy fixes.”