The 2001 Top Ten Public Works Leaders

Since 1960, APWA has singled out ten individuals each year who best represent the finest in the public works profession. Following are this year's choices...

Lon Hultgren
Director of Public Works
Town of Mansfield, Connecticut

Lon Hultgren, Director of Public Works for the Town of Mansfield, Connecticut for the past 21 years, has been a leader and coordinator of many local and regional efforts. While he is responsible for the department's operating budget and additional capital improvement projects, his ability to translate the community's needs into public works programs and systems is his forte. Using a combination of grants and systems imported and modified from other communities, he has developed, within Mansfield, transportation, recreation, and solid waste programs that are unique.

  • Hultgren was one of the driving forces behind the creation of a 12-town recycling region during the early period of Connecticut's implementation of recycling systems.
  • Under his leadership, the Town of Mansfield has been a leader in implementing a weight-based solid waste disposal system, which serves as an example for many other Connecticut municipalities.
  • He has recently developed a federally funded streetscape project in Mansfield Center that promises to be a tremendous improvement for that area of the Town.
Awards he has received include the Town of Mansfield Volunteer Recognition Award; the University of Connecticut, Department of Civil Engineering Senior Project Award; and the Recycling Achievement Award, New England Chapter of APWA.

Ramankutty Kannankutty
Director of Engineering Services
Department of Public Works
City of Minneapolis, Minnesota

As the Director of Engineering Services for the City of Minneapolis Department of Public Works, Ramankutty Kannankutty has often demonstrated his leadership and commitment to serve the needs of his constituency. Indeed, with his enthusiasm and his focus on citizen service orientation, he has fostered a positive image of public works in his community. Again and again he has demonstrated his ability to deliver public works projects through intergovernmental cooperation, collaboration, and negotiations.

  • Kannankutty has had direct involvement in the planning, design, and construction of more than 80 bridge projects in Minneapolis, including seven Mississippi River crossings.
  • He was the project manager for the planning, design, and construction of State Highway 55 from downtown Minneapolis to the airport, a $100-million-plus project.
  • He directed the development of the City's first Storm Water Management Ordinance, and started the evaluation of sewer systems to get ready for the upcoming Sanitary Sewer Overflow regulations.
Kannankutty has authored a number of papers, including "Computer Assistance for a Public Works Department," "Rehabilitation Versus Replacement-A Municipal Approach," and "Bridge Engineering in the 21st Century."

Editor's Note: In March 2001, Mr. Kannankutty retired from his position as Director of Engineering Services for the City of Minneapolis Department of Public Works. He is currently the Assistant Area Manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Mike Kashiwagi
Director of Public Works
City of Sacramento, California

Talented from a technical and engineering perspective, Mike Kashiwagi, Director of Public Works for the City of Sacramento, California, is also cognizant of the value of integrating community involvement and input into his department's project delivery processes. Under his leadership, comprehensive traffic engineering, capital improvement, transportation, public education, and other projects have been brought to successful completion by drawing upon the tremendous resources and counsel the community members offer.

  • Kashiwagi's vision of creating a sustainable organization includes the implementation of comprehensive training programs for public works employees. All incoming public works employees attend "Excellent Customer Service" training facilitated by fellow employees coached in training and facilitation skills.
  • With his support and leadership, members of the employee PRO (Partners Reaching Out) Team coordinate a series of events to benefit the Sacramento community, staffed by employees offering their services on their own time.
  • Under his leadership, the department developed a critical planning tool which is used to better balance Sacramento's transportation programming needs citywide.
Kashiwagi has served on APWA's Accreditation Council (1997-2000) and Leadership and Management Committee (1998-2000); is a Board Member, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the California Rebuild America Coalition; and is President of the Public Works Officers Department of the League of California Cities.

Abe U. Malae
Executive Director and CEO
American Samoa Power Authority
Pago Pago, American Samoa


Editor's Note: The Territory of American Samoa lies 14 degrees south of the equator, 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, and 1,800 miles northeast of New Zealand. American Samoa encompasses a 77-square-mile area composed of numerous islands.

Abe U. Malae, the Executive Director and CEO of the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), is committed to excellence and relentless dedication to improve service to the people of American Samoa. Through his leadership, the ASPA has developed into an efficient and well-respected organization that has improved the standard of living in the Territory of American Samoa tremendously.

  • Malae was instrumental in founding the Pacific Power Association to help Pacific Basin power companies address training and conduct other programs to achieve operational efficiencies. He also helped found the Pacific Water Association and the Buddy System Training Program for the U.S. Pacific Territories.
  • He expects those who work with him to maintain the highest levels of integrity, honesty, and public service. For example, if ASPA staff does not appear for appointments with their customers on time, the customers receive a $25 credit on their utility bills.
  • Malae has sent his electrical crews to other utilities to train employees on how to manage and maintain electrical power plants with limited manpower resources and under adverse climatic conditions. Through this arrangement, other rural utilities have improved their reliability, productivity, and efficiency.
His community service includes Family Matai (chief) and Leader; American Samoa Drought Effort Coordinator; Hurricane Val Recovery Volunteer; 1990 Goodwill Fair Participant; and Catholic Education Scholarship Committee, Member.

Larry J. Nadeau
Director of Public Works
City of Saco, Maine

Larry J. Nadeau, Director of Public Works for the City of Saco, Maine, has made it a career goal to inspire contributions to the public works profession and to inspire excellence and dedication in public service. His steadfast commitment to the City of Saco and its citizens goes far above and beyond the call of duty. Through his positive outlook, constant promotion of job excellence, and commitment to the varying services and tasks he is obligated to administer and manage, Nadeau represents a powerful mentoring example for all to follow.

  • Nadeau has been aggressive and extremely successful in pursuing grants from the varying state and federal agencies. In the last 13 years, he has been responsible for solidifying $4.3 million of funding for the City.
  • He was responsible for the development of an All Hazards Mitigation Plan with Short- and Long-Term Initiatives which has received excellent reviews from federal, state, county, and local officials.
  • Nadeau's efforts have paved the way for the City of Saco to earn a designation to participate in the federally-sponsored "Project Impact" program. The City was chosen as the first municipality in the State of Maine to serve as a pilot community to build a national model of a disaster resistant community.
Nadeau has been recognized by many organizations for his outstanding contributions. These include Gold Seal of Merit, York County Emergency Management Agency; Certified Emergency Manager, Maine Emergency Managers Council of the State of Maine; Certificate of Appreciation, Sweetser Children's Services; and Grand Quality Achievement Award, Maine Quality Initiative Steering Committee.

Ronald L. Norris, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Lenexa, Kansas

Over the years, Ronald L. Norris, Director of Public Works for the City of Lenexa, Kansas, has developed an impressive track record as a highly capable public works administrator. This former APWA President is widely recognized as an energetic and innovative manager, and he displays the highest levels of professional integrity. He is well regarded by those who know him, for both his technical judgments and his effective interpersonal and leadership skills, all of which allow him to quickly earn the confidence of citizens, the support of elected officials, and loyalty from his staff.

  • Norris initiated a region-wide traffic signal management program to enhance traffic management services and improvements, not only in the City of Lenexa but with adjacent cities in Kansas and extending into the Missouri side of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area.
  • Under his leadership, his agency initiated Johnson County's first low-cost bridge icing detection system, which is being studied for county-wide usage.
  • Norris initiated a major watershed study to identify existing problems and their solutions as well as ways to change storm water from a community problem to an asset. In addition, he was responsible for initiating the City's watershed management plan and overseeing its development.
Awards he has received include the Stanley Fisher Award for Excellence in Public Administration; the National Award for Professional Development-Public Sector, National Society of Professional Engineers; the National Privatization Award, U.S. Privatization Council; and Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering, University of Missouri.

Ric Robertshaw, P.Eng.
Director of Environmental Services
Region of Halton, Ontario

During his career, Ric Robertshaw, Director of Environmental Services for the Region of Halton, Ontario, has provided innovative leadership in all public works areas and particularly in infrastructure management and operations. A past president of the Canadian Public Works Association, his dedication goes beyond his managerial duties as Director at Halton to his commitment to creating a presence as the voice of public works officials in Canada through CPWA. Robertshaw has always been committed to the improvement of public works and his leadership has resulted in great benefits to the profession.

  • Most recently, Robertshaw has served as the Chair of the Expert Panel overseeing the performance measurement and benchmarking exercise for the water and wastewater functions of 11 of the largest municipalities in Ontario.
  • His national presence and leadership have recently facilitated expansion of the Canadian National Benchmarking Water & Wastewater Partnership. This initiative is now rolling out as a national program representing more than 50 percent of Canada's population served by water and wastewater systems.
  • When the Government of Canada, through the National Research Council and co-sponsored by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and CPWA, established the need to develop national best practices for municipal infrastructure, Robertshaw, as CPWA President and technical expert, became a key player in defining the concept, development process, and governance of the project.
Robertshaw has provided community service on the ski hills, the judo mats, the baseball field, and to various charity groups.

Thomas J. Rolen, P.E.
Director of Public Works and Engineering
City of Houston, Texas

As the Director of Public Works and Engineering for the City of Houston, Texas, Thomas J. Rolen sets high standards for his staff and provides the leadership and support necessary to achieve the department goals. He demands excellence and is very well respected, not only by his own employees but also by executive team members and the community. His experience in public service has provided him the ability to anticipate needs, and he has developed the ability to bring together the necessary resources to achieve the required objectives.

  • In mid 2000, Rolen assigned a task force composed of safety experts, administrators, and field personnel to develop a departmental Strategic Safety Plan, a major component of which was the development of a comprehensive Accident Prevention Plan.
  • He initiated the development and implementation of the City's School Zone Flashing Beacon Program. The initiative replaced static school zone signs on major thoroughfares throughout the City with flashing beacons, the use of which has resulted in reduced traffic speed in school zones.
  • Under his leadership, the department developed and implemented the City's Speed Hump Program. This program, which has installed 2,358 speed humps, is one of the largest in the nation, and continues to be an extremely popular program.
Under Rolen's watch, all of the Department's goals were accomplished in 2000. Successes included reduction in lost time accidents; reduction in vehicles and equipment utilized compared to prior year; increased number of sewer inlet/manholes cleaned; increased bridge maintenance work orders completed; and improved water emergency turn-on rates.

Jon R. Ruiz
Public Works Director
City of Ogden City, Utah

Jon R. Ruiz is Public Works Director for Ogden City, Utah, an older community experiencing the problems arising from aging infrastructure. His leadership style, vision, and commitment to informed consent and citizen involvement have allowed him to rise to the challenges and to successfully lead Ogden toward revitalization. His ability to lead groups through controversy and conflict have made him a leader respected by administration, elected officials, staff, and peers from around the community and across the country.

  • Ruiz's leadership on the Utah Technology Transfer Center Board has helped to ensure state-of-the-art training methods and technology which are available to public works agencies throughout the state.
  • He has helped prepare Ogden and northern Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games through his active involvement with transportation and public works officials by planning and building infrastructure for the games.
  • Ruiz has worked with the local power company to have the wattage of residential streetlights increased to improve safety. He has also been successful in obtaining funding to update the lighting in the central business district.
In addition to APWA, Ruiz maintains memberships in a number of professional organizations, including the American Water Works Association; the International City/County Management Association; the Utah Communication Area Network (Board Member); and the Utah Technology Transfer Center, Utah State University (Advisory Board Member).

John O. Trent
Director of Public Works and Utilities
Pierce County, Washington

In his position as Director of Public Works and Utilities for Pierce County, Washington, John O. Trent has faced the many and varied challenges of a rapidly expanding urban county. Due largely to his efforts, Pierce County is recognized for its ability to provide quality services to its citizens while facing the challenge of extensive infrastructure growth. Trent's leadership and professional expertise have resulted in improvements throughout the County in transportation, storm water management, wastewater treatment, solid waste management, and infrastructure planning.

  • Trent was instrumental in initiation, development, and implementation of the regional Geographic Information System.
  • He oversaw development and implementation of compliance programs for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for storm water (Phase I) and wastewater treatment programs.
  • He directed development of the Chambers Creek Properties Master Site Plan for comprehensive long-range development on 950 acres of marine waterfront public properties.
Trent has given numerous presentations before various committees and at technical seminars. His presentations include "Planning and Public Works-Get It Together," "Politics and Public Works," "Management by Objectives-Don't Lose Sight," and "Personal Development/Professional Development."