The road to leadership winds through our chapters

Patricia A. Kutt, CAE
Director of Education
APWA Kansas City Office

On an unusually brisk weekend in Kansas City, Missouri in mid-January, 105 APWA leaders representing 41 chapters and the APWA 17-member Board of Directors assembled for the second Chapter Leaders Training event in three years. The theme for this year's program was "The Road to Leadership."

The event was a mixture of group discussions about what it takes to lead an effective chapter; presentations by professional speakers on key topics; and plain ol' fun wrapped around a team-building exercise which resulted in "wind vehicles" crafted of paper and straws which were then raced using lung power of the team's "driver."

John Luthy, Ed.D., President of The Futures Corporation, Boise, ID, talked about how APWA chapters can support their members in assuming more active roles in community leadership. According to Luthy, it is no longer enough to be just a resource for factual information about the status of local infrastructure. Public works leaders need to actively engage themselves in the day-to-day issues of their constituency.

Luthy noted that stature and leadership accrue to those who call the meetings and create forums for exchange. He believes that in times of stress, communities seek four things: clarity; direction; the truth; and quiet, dignified, harmonious leadership. Public works is uniquely suited to provide these four elements and to "take the point" in leading our communities into a new era.

"Don't complain that public works wasn't at the table when developers met with planners, or when elected officials met with city budget officers," Luthy said. "Don't wait to be invited—call the meeting, set the agenda, and make sure that public works issues are fully explained and that our communities make decisions about the future armed with the facts and with respect for the contribution public works makes to community life through strategic thinking, scenario building, and as creators of place."

Ron Rosenberg, President of Quality Talk from Raleigh, NC, talked about "Increasing Your Lead in Chapter Membership." Rosenberg, a noted speaker and presenter regarding association membership, challenged the participants to grow membership in new and creative ways. The emerging younger leader, new paradigms in association membership and successful tools for chapter leaders were all addressed by Rosenberg.

Larry Deaton of Independence, Missouri, entertained the crowd with his homespun humor and his discussion of right vs. left-brained people. Some of his examples are shown in the sidebar. While no person is exactly one way or the other it helps in dealing with people to realize that each has different thought processes in reaching decisions.

In between formal presentations, members of the Board highlighted specific areas of note for all chapters including: APWA's new branding initiative; National Public Works Week and opportunities for chapters to participate; the pending Fleet Management Certification initiative; and the Jennings Randolph Fellowship for international visits to public works associations in our partner countries.

"Very informative, and I encourage attendance for new chapter leaders or those who have never attended. Loved the theme, it was fun." - Sherri McIntyre, Assistant City Engineer, City of Kansas City, MO

Of course, we could not run a program without a financial discussion of chapter rules on sponsorship, insurance and reporting conducted by APWA's Director of Finance, Teri Newhouse. Brent Paloutzian, APWA's Web Developer, walked the chapters through the changes on the website, focusing on the "Members Only" portion and the wealth of information available at their fingertips. Bob Browell, Chapter Relations Manager, conducted an open discussion of great new ideas generated by the various chapters (see accompanying sidebar for great ideas).

In keeping with the theme, participants visited the Armacost Museum, a private museum of vintage cars on the campus of Peterson Manufacturing in Grandview, Missouri.

Rounding the last lap, Bob Freudenthal, President-Elect, talked about strategic visioning for APWA and its chapters and encouraged each chapter to have its own strategic plan. Peter King, Executive Director, enlightened all on the active advocacy movement managed from APWA's Washington, D.C. office on behalf of the members and the profession.

"Exceptional people put on an exceptional program!" - Dave Mandyke, Deputy Director-Public Works & Utilities, City of Spokane, WA

Finishing the event, John P. Schuster of The Schuster Kane Alliance, Inc., talked about "Finding the Ultimate Finish Line" in your life. Schuster, a Kansas City area speaker and lecturer, punctuated the conference with insights into servant leadership, a spirited workplace, leadership with heart, and capitalism with a human face.

In lieu of paper handouts, all attendees received a comprehensive disc of information, articles and PowerPoint(tm) presentations on many of the current activities and issues for APWA. Chapters not represented will be sent copies of this CD.

For many of the chapter leaders present this was a first-time visit to headquarters. By the end of the program it was clear that meeting with other chapters across North America is helpful to both the leaders and APWA National. The chapters are the foundation of this association and the leaders for 2005-2006 are well-informed, decisive and charged to create new visions at the local level.

Patricia A. Kutt, CAE, received the 2004 Professional Excellence Award from the Kansas City Society of Association Executives. She can be reached at (800) 848-APWA or at

Brain Activity


  1. Preference for the big car
  2. Likes to watch the football game
  3. Adult sermon
  4. Cleaning house - function
  5. Driving long distances - follows map, knows exactly where they have been
  6. Finds things logically
  7. Writes in script
  8. Competitive in play and work
  9. Exact calculations of distance; reads maps
  10. Has money clip


  1. Likes the small car (poetry)
  2. Likes to watch the halftime show
  3. Children's sermon
  4. Cleaning house - appearance
  5. Have no idea where they have been; in fact, don't even remember coming
  6. Finds things with a flash of insight
  7. Prints
  8. Loves freedom; hates comparison
  9. Estimates distances; looks for landmarks to get to destination
  10. Wads up money in their pockets

Chapters are engaged in a wide variety of "fabulous" programs as Bob Browell, APWA Chapter Relations Manager, walked leaders through some of the more creative ones. A few examples of programs profiled include:

  1. The Delaware Valley Chapter is experimenting with lengthening the president's term of office by a year. Why? It seems that experience proved that just as the president was hitting his stride, the term came to an end. The chapter, without modifying its bylaws, allows the membership to renominate the standing president for one more year. Seems to be working great!

  2. The Arizona Chapter developed an extensive chapter history project that provided a terrific background on the public works history of the State of Arizona and the chapter.

  3. The Kansas City Metro Chapter launched a major project to develop a collegiate student outreach program with the University of Missouri-Kansas City. This project involves students from the College of Urban Planning and Design, College of Engineering and the School of Architecture. Based on this successful pilot the chapter is broadening their inclusiveness and growing chapter membership.

  4. The Oregon Chapter developed a mentoring program to place first-time attendees to the chapter's state conference with a "buddy" who has been a chapter member for some time and who can introduce the new member to other professionals in the public works field.
These "fabulous" programs are profiled in "It Worked For Us" located in the "Members Only" section of the national website. For more information on these and other chapter programs, simply contact the chapter through the e-mail link.