THIS YEAR MARKS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the American Public Works Association's (APWA) Top Ten Leaders of the Year, a program that recognizes 10 of the association's 30,000 members each year for career-long professionalism, expertise, service, and personal dedication to improving quality of life through infrastructure.
We asked those who know the 2010 installment of honorees best — colleagues and employees — what it means to work with a Top 10 Leader.
LESSONS IN COMMUNICATION
Public Works Director
Eau Claire, Wis.
Brian Amundson understands that communication is critical. Which is why he revised snow and ice control procedures a couple of years ago: to ensure employees, other departments and jurisdictions — and especially the public — are briefed at least daily in anticipation of, and during, storms. (See “First response,” December 2009 issue, page 15.)
This wasn't Amundson's first endeavor to keep the public informed.
In the early ‘90s, he implemented a pavement rating system that revealed 30% of streets were in “poor” condition. With this system, Amundson was able to explain to the public and elected officials why the city needed to make street maintenance and reconstruction a priority. Today, less than 4% are rated “poor.”
“Brian's taught me to make sure elected officials and the affected public understand the problem you're trying to fix,” says Eau Claire Transportation Engineer Ross Spitz. “If they don't understand the ‘why,' you're going to have a tough time getting them onboard to spend the capital to do the project, regardless of how great your solution is.”
For example, in September 2000 record rainfall caused major flooding and millions in property damage in Eau Claire. After leading a successful cleanup, Amundson identified problem areas to fix in the existing storm sewer system to prevent future disaster. This led to constituents approving multiple storm sewer projects that included purchasing 33 homes.
“With a leader like Brian, our department is truly making our community a better place to live,” says Spitz.