People make do: Paul Goranson

Editor's Note: This month's Member Profile features Paul Goranson, P.Eng., Public Works Manager, City of Red Deer, Alberta; Alternate Delegate for APWA's Alberta Chapter; former member of the Canadian Public Works Association's Board of Directors; and former member of APWA's Congress Program Review Committee.

How did you get involved in public works? I started working in consulting engineering out of university. I did that for three years, and then came to the City of Red Deer where I worked in the Engineering Department. From there I moved into the Public Works Department and was involved in the water and the wastewater treatment plants and the management of the equipment fleet. I was in that position for about three years, and then moved to my current position as Public Works Manager.

Education: I received my Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1986 and a Master of Business Administration in 2001. My BSC is from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and my MBA is from Athabasca University.

Favorite Book: Nothing in specific, but anything written by Tom Clancy I seem to gravitate towards.

Hobbies/Interests: I play and coach hockey, snowboard in the winter, golf in the summer, and run all year-around.

Role Model: I can't say that there's anyone in particular that I try to model myself after. I tend to try to emulate some of the positive traits that I see in a lot of people, whether it's my parents, or different supervisors that I've worked for, or people that have worked for me, or other peers. I just try to make a note of the positive things and the characteristics that they have, and hopefully try to reflect those in the things that I do and decisions that I make.

Career Accomplishments: The projects that I've been involved in are the first things that come to mind. We recently developed a new landfill for the city, and it received provincial and national awards. That's a project the whole city is proud of. Some of the upgrades to our treatment plants that involved the coordination, planning and financing have been very exciting to be responsible for. We've also experienced a very significant growth period through central Alberta over the last few years, and it looks like it's going to keep growing. That creates a lot of challenges for our department, and the fact that our staff has been able to keep up with that is something I'm proud of.

What was your experience like with the Congress Program Review Committee? It was a very interesting and intense process. Basically we were involved in selecting and recommending all of the sessions for Congress. It makes going to Congress a lot different. You go through it with a different perspective because you look at the different sessions that you go to, and try to compare them with the different one-page abstracts used to evaluate them. Fortunately, most of the sessions were very similar to what the abstracts said they were going to be about. It was interesting that way.

It's a great group of people that you bond with pretty quickly, because people come from all over North America for a weekend to work on it. The team I was involved with certainly worked hard, and had a lot of fun. The APWA staff that's involved really has a very well-organized process that helps to streamline what could otherwise be a very complicated and frustrating exercise. I think that's one of the reasons why Congress is such a success, because of the diligent review process that topics go through before being selected and presented.

Tell us more about the City of Red Deer and the Department of Public Works: We've got a population of about 75,000 people. We're located basically halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. It's a very dynamic, fast-paced community. The central Alberta corridor was identified as one of the fastest economic growth areas in North America, so there's a lot of economic activity going on here. The city itself is probably best known for its volunteers, the programs that we put on, and the friendly people. It's a fun place to work and live.

There are about 140 full-time equivalents in the Public Works Department. We're responsible for a number of different areas such as maintaining all the roads and sidewalks. We manage the equipment fleet, and we have a central pool of large equipment for all the other departments within the city. Our waste management section involves owning and managing the landfill as well as managing collection and recycling programs for the city. We also manage the utilities, the water and wastewater treatment plants, and the water and wastewater distribution and collection systems. So the whole gamut of public works is covered within our area.

Just how cold can it get up there in Red Deer? (laughs) Pretty damn cold. We just got through a real wicked spell last week at this time, about the third week of January. It got down to about minus forty-five with the windchill. And that was Celsius, but at that point it doesn't really make a whole lot of difference which you use—Fahrenheit or Celsius, it's very cold. Most of the schools were closed, and we had equipment problems. Lots of people had problems around the area just due to the severe cold.

But people make do. You know, it's something that you grow to expect living in certain parts of Canada. People adapt. And now it's back up to minus twenty and it feels like summer is just around the corner. Typically the cold spells don't last too long, which makes you appreciate the warm weather when it does come.

Why do you like being a member of APWA? For me it's the people and the contacts that I've made. The networking is one of the key reasons why I get involved in it. It really allows you to access information and knowledge that you wouldn't be able to get if you didn't have those contacts that you make through the association.

Most of the contacts that I use are within our own chapter here. Quite often, when I have a problem and I'm not sure which way to go on it, there are people I can contact that I know have dealt with a similar circumstance. A quick call or e-mail and I can get some suggestions on what other municipalities have done. I've also made a lot of good friends over the years through my involvement in the chapter and the association.