APWA: Diversity remains "of the utmost importance in ensuring growth and vitality"

Cora Fossett
Public Affairs Director
City of Los Angeles, California
Chair, APWA Diversity Committee

The American Public Works Association continues to regard diversity in all areas of public life as of the utmost importance in ensuring its growth and vitality. This concept was never more evident than in the programs presented by its Diversity Committee at this year's International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Minneapolis on September 11-14.

During the Congress, the APWA Diversity Committee again brought this concept to the eyes and ears of the record crowd that attended the event.

The Diversity Committee was created in 1995 to promote the belief that all should be made to feel included as part of the whole and that diversity awareness is essential to the continued growth and vitality of the APWA, both in the workforce and as a membership organization.

Attendees listen to guest speaker Wanda Kirkpatrick at the Diversity Luncheon.

The highlight of the Diversity Committee's activities at the conference was its annual Diversity Luncheon in which more than 95 persons were in attendance, including APWA's Board of Directors, who are very supportive of diversity within both APWA's membership and leadership. Attendance at this event set a record for the luncheon.

The guest speaker at the luncheon was Wanda Kirkpatrick, Director of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Metropolitan Council, in St. Paul. Ms. Kirkpatrick, who spoke on "Diversity: The Minnesota Connection," provided an interesting presentation on the Twin Cities' light rail system and how procedures and work rules were created to ensure the inclusiveness of all qualified Minnesotans.

There was also record attendance at the committee's First-Timers Meeting; more than 200 persons were in attendance, including most APWA Board members who helped the new attendees to the Congress feel welcome and included. Several chapter diversity liaisons also attended this ninth annual event.

The committee also met with the Women in Public Works Forum who are interested in creating a networking group. Since the committee's main focus next year will be working on a study of women in public works, the meeting held extra interest for the group. Both the Forum and the committee's goal is to encourage more women to enter the field of public works at all levels.

In all, the committee sponsored three diversity educational sessions at this year's Congress and has three planned for next year's event. This year's sessions included "A Smart Solution to Personnel Shortages: Hiring International Engineering Graduates" with Gary Downing and Thai Tran; "Embrace Diversity in Your Community and Public Works" with Glenn Kephart, Rosa Inchausti and Jennifer Adams; and "The Blended Work Family" with Peggy Pound.

Next year's three educational sessions are tentatively scheduled to include a panel of two women and two men discussing the issue of women in public works, best diversity practices in public works, and challenges of diversity issues in dealing with emergency response.

The APWA Diversity Committee is comprised of Cora Fossett, chair; Sonya Bohannan, Flip Bombardier, Augie Chang, Gary Downing, Glenn Kephart, Kim Presnell and Diane Linderman.

Cora Fossett can be reached at (213) 978-0319 or cjackson@bpw.lacity.org.