Staff member leaves legacy of service

A profound silence filled APWA offices as staff members learned of the untimely death of Professional Development Program Manager John D. "Mac" MacMullen, Jr. on February 19th. He leaves behind a legacy of service that will not soon be forgotten.

Mac was APWA's own version of The Man Who Came to Dinner. When APWA opened its doors in Kansas City in February 1993, Mac called to offer his services unpacking boxes and setting up the office. Instead he was told to put on a jacket and tie and report for an interview. Once he got in the door, we didn't let him go, and the association has been much better off because of it.

As a third-generation career soldier, a rare devotion to duty and honor characterized everything Mac did. Although he was an Army Ranger, served in Vietnam and retired as a colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, Mac's sense of duty and honor manifested itself in quiet, selfless and unceasing service. Rather than seeking the limelight, Mac simply did the job-whatever it was. At APWA some of those jobs were quite important, some were routine, and some were decidedly menial, but they all got the same intensity from him.

Mac's areas of responsibility at APWA included a short stint as the staff liaison to the Fleet, Facilities and Grounds Committee, staff liaison to the Contract Sweepers Institute, manager of the PAVER program, and staff liaison to the UPROW and One-Call Committees. He quickly seized upon the intricacies of the APWA Micro PAVER pavement management system and became APWA's resident expert, giving users excellent support and revitalizing our customer base. At the same time, he provided valuable advice to PAVER's creator, Mo Shahin, which led to several new versions of the system in the last eight years.

Mac also assumed responsibility for the remnants of APWA's bookstore operations when it was moved to Kansas City. During the association's relocation from Chicago, staff attrition and reorganization of departments had taken its toll on bookstore sales, but Mac stepped in, organized the inventory and fulfilled orders-almost single-handedly-the first couple of years. His efforts helped maintain APWA's role as a source for written public works information until the association was able to devote more resources to updating and expanding its publications in 1996.

Another role Mac played was as APWA's "Answer Man." His depth of knowledge and experience, combined with the fact that for a prolonged period of time he was the only public works professional on staff, made him the logical person to field the many public works-related questions that came in by phone, fax and e-mail on a daily basis. He had a phenomenal memory and ability to cross-reference material, was an avid reader of technical journals, and was eager to share information for the good of the profession. Those characteristics gave birth to Mac's highly popular "Glad You Asked" column in the APWA Reporter and made him APWA's most aggressive supporter of the recently launched infoNOW Communities on the APWA web site. They also made him as valuable to other staff as he was to the APWA membership. Mac's expertise and sound public works perspective have been vital to the Education and Publications Departments as his insights helped shape most of the education programs and publications developed by the association during his tenure. And his penchant for collecting public works articles, forms and documents has "saved" staff members countless times as they passed them along to delighted and very grateful members in need of help.

Typical of Mac's passion for the job and disregard for self, at last year's Congress in Louisville, he came close to having to be dragged out of the Convention Center to see a doctor when he tripped on a stairway and broke his nose. Needless to say, he was back "on duty" immediately after receiving treatment.

The magnitude of the loss for APWA staff is personal as well as professional. Not only was Mac our own "captive consultant" but he was a friend of the highest order. He had a way of making everyone feel important, and was ready with a handkerchief or a ready hand-whatever the situation required. Few boxes were lifted and moved or mass mailings assembled without Mac's help when the call went out, and even fewer downcast moods went unnoticed. Many times as staff shared memories of Mac after learning of his death, he was quoted as saying "Well, at least I made you laugh." And each of us had felt those words were only for us!

The week Mac died all of the little children in his church were left to wonder who would take up the offering and open the doors for them each Sunday now that he was gone. He knew them all by name and showed them the special attention of a doting grandfather. News of his death also impacted innumerable friends and colleagues. Verbal and written tributes have poured into APWA headquarters praising Mac as "a superb professional," "good humored," "energetic," "supportive," "overtly friendly," and "a good and decent person who was very helpful, thoughtful, honest and very sincere."

Mac also set a standard as a family man. He is survived by his wife Janet, two daughters, two grandsons and a granddaughter. He adored them all and shared pictures and stories freely with anyone who would listen. Staff always knew the nights when his infant granddaughter was due to visit because he anticipated the visits so eagerly.

In truth, there may not be words enough to properly define Mac. He was an amazing dichotomy-highly analytical and yet childlike in his boundless enthusiasm-a warrior and yet most often gentle and humble-a man with a keen sense of humor yet capable of great rage when the printer didn't work-a leader who led by serving.

Stepping into Mac's office was also an experience. Cabinets full of public works books and documents stood side-by-side with military pictures, swords, and a variety of Gator memorabilia-hanging on the wall, used as wallpaper for his computer screen, perched on his desk or adorning his person! The University of Florida-where Mac received his master's degree in civil engineering-has lost its most zealous fan. So zealous was he that it seemed perfectly normal to see some Gator paraphernalia in Mac's church the night of his visitation. And, yes, the last tie he ever wore was his beloved Gator tie!

Lunchtime is quieter now. There aren't any war stories or Gator references that spark other stories; there's no one to read to us those obscure newspaper articles we may have missed; there's no one with whom to discuss the finer points of filling potholes. And it seems almost irreverent if someone else rolls up a napkin and tries to sink a basket in the kitchen trashcan. He relished those things as much as solving a PAVER problem or tracking down an answer to some public works question or going up and down the halls showing off the "good stuff" some other staff member had accomplished.

It has been said that a good man is hard to find. At APWA we know that a good man is even harder to lose. Mac would have enjoyed the pun.

Contributed by Connie Hartline, Publications Manager. Connie can be reached at 816-472-6100 or at