Best idea: Service education just for infrastructure managers



The seed for the Illinois Public Service Institute was planted when Jeff Smith attended an APWA Region V (all of Illinois except for the Chicago Metro chapter, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and Ontario) conference.

There he learned about the Michigan Public Service Institute, a three-year professional-development program specifically for public works supervisors, managers, and directors serving communities of all sizes in all capacities that addresses whatever a committee of peers and educators deems a common challenge: supervisory skills, service excellence, and the like.

“Hey, I thought, police and fire have their institutes; public works has nothing,” says Smith. “Illinois needs that type of group.”

APWA's Region V and Chicago Metro chapters put up seed money and formed a small steering committee, which Smith chaired for several years. The Illinois Public Service Institute bloomed in fall 2002, with additional planning support from the state's Municipal League, Association of Municipal Management Assistants, Water Environment Association, and City/ County Management Association.

The program consists of one, one-week session each year for three years. Participants earn continuing education or college credits through Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois universities, which offer up to three hours of independent-study academic credit upon completion of each year of the course.

Next month marks the institute's 10th anniversary. “We've graduated 200 to 250 people,” says Smith. “One year we had to actually turn people away. Obviously this was a collaborative effort, but I'm pleased to have championed the idea.”