President's Message

National Public Works Week: Our week to shine

Judith M. Mueller
APWA President

This month brings National Public Works Week, May 20-26. National Public Works Week provides the opportunity for public works professionals and departments to highlight to our communities the work that we do for all of our citizens. One of the things we have emphasized in APWA's Strategic Plan is to try to get a higher profile for public works, and National Public Works Week is the opportunity for all communities to do that.

As a public works director, I use this week to put a spotlight on my employees and let them shine. We typically have a proclamation from the mayor announcing National Public Works Week, and have it presented at one of the city council meetings. We conduct a variety of activities, including an annual equipment show at our downtown mall. Perhaps most importantly, we have an employee picnic which is an opportunity to thank our employees for all of the things they have accomplished during the year.

A number of public works departments conduct even more elaborate National Public Works Week activities, and I think that's terrific. It is important to use every opportunity we can to highlight our people and equipment, promote public works, and explain to our customers who we are and what we do. As many of us know, much of what we do in public works is accepted matter-of-factly by the public, and the only time they notice us is when there is a problem or something doesn't work. Thus, this is a chance-once a year-to bring public works into the open and try to get publicity for what we do.

At APWA, I believe that we have done an increasingly better job each year of trying to get information to our members concerning how other communities have celebrated National Public Works Week, and then trying to share all of those ideas. A number of chapters are also sharing at the chapter level in their newsletters, and are conducting equipment fairs and other activities to try to raise the consciousness level.

An equipment show is the most significant way of raising that consciousness level. It has always amazed me how much people enjoy seeing an entire truck outfitted for snow fighting, and how much they like getting in the cabs of some of our largest vehicles. And I love watching our employees talk about the trucks that they use on a daily basis, and how genuinely excited they get telling folks about the many different things that we do. Interestingly, as we become more sophisticated as public works departments, I find that people are surprised at how much computerization has changed the way we provide our services.

So, get involved in National Public Works Week. This is a week to talk to your customers and citizens about what you do. Just as significant, it is an opportunity to step back and say "thank you" to your employees. It is important to make them feel good about what we do in public works.

Top Ten the ultimate honor
This issue of the APWA Reporter features the Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year, which always coincides with National Public Works Week. It is my opinion that the Top Ten Public Works Leader of the Year award is the ultimate professional honor that a public works professional can receive. The award is the recognition by their peers that they have significantly contributed to the profession, to their communities, and to the people they serve. Because we only recognize 10 Public Works Leaders of the Year, and there are more than 26,000 of us in APWA, it becomes very clear what an important recognition this award is.

I have just had the opportunity of notifying by phone all of the Top Ten recipients and, quite frankly, it is the ultimate phone call you can make to someone. Just to hear the thrill in their voices when I told them they had been selected was absolutely great. Not only is this a great honor for each recipient, but it is also a tribute to the contributions of the people working in their organizations.