The Land of 10,000 Lakes and 10,000 Answers

Keith Hunke
Public Works Director - Service Operations
City of Bismarck, North Dakota
Chair, APWA Solid Waste Management Committee
Presenter, 2005 APWA Congress

  APWA Congress: Land of 10,000 Answers

We build the roads, clean them, and maintain them. We collect the solid wastes and dispose of them. We develop sources of water, make it safe to drink, and clean up the wastewater before discharging it. We purchase, operate, and maintain the unique, sophisticated equipment. We deal with citizens, mayors, managers, city councils, commissioners, unions, civic groups, and countless others. We manage all sorts of operations, great and small. All of this activity performed by public works professionals creates questions, and your answers to these questions will be found at the 2005 APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

My first experience with the APWA Congress was in Minneapolis in 1997. I was overwhelmed with the size of the display area for public works equipment. At the time, I was Purchasing Agent for the City of Bismarck Public Works Department and thought I had a duty to bring back every keychain, T-shirt, decal, glossy brochure, and other vendor door prizes that I could. I spent every possible hour combing the exhibit floor for that special item that I could share with my coworkers and have bragging rights as the one who got the coolest vendor trinket. When I was asked, "Where can I get that type of equipment," I had the answer.

Soon after my initial Congress experience, I found it important to attend the General Sessions and pay attention to the details of each keynote speaker. I also realized that the educational sessions were my key to success. I could find out the best way to build the roads, clean them, and maintain them; collect the solid wastes and dispose of them; develop sources of water, make it safe to drink, and clean up the wastewater before discharging it; and purchase, operate, and maintain the unique, sophisticated equipment. I learned how important it was to read and review the Congress Program and prepare and prioritize a schedule prior to starting each day, so that when asked, "How can I build..., collect..., develop..., treat..., etc.," I had the answer.

Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Lakes (photo courtesy of the Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association)

As public works professionals we are always being asked to do more with less, and deal with diminishing budgets, increasing workloads, aged equipment and infrastructure, and an ever-demanding citizenry. After attending Congress this year, when asked questions like "How can we budget for outcomes, how can we improve our understanding of others, productivity, quality, safety, diversity, change management, and personal relationships," I will have the answer.

Finally, do not forget to have fun. Now I find this to be the most important thing to do at Congress. The APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition will have many opportunities for participants to relax and participate in sightseeing tours, sporting events, technical tours...and shopping! So when my significant other asks, "What did you buy for me," I will have the answer.

Keith Hunke will present an educational session at the APWA Congress in Minneapolis entitled "What is Lurking in Your Basement and Garage? Managing Household Hazardous Waste." The session is on Tuesday, September 13, at 2:30 p.m. Keith can be reached at (701) 222-6431 or khunke@state.nd.us.

For more information on the APWA Congress and to register online, go to www.apwa.net and click on the Congress logo. For more information on Minneapolis attractions, visit www.minneapolismeetings.com.