2007 Top Ten Public Works Leaders Named

One of the most coveted and prestigious awards sponsored by the American Public Works Association is presented each year to ten public works professionals whose professional excellence earned the distinction of Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year. The honorees are selected for their professionalism and expertise as well as their personal dedication to improving the quality of life in their communities through advancement of public works services and technology.

The 2007 Top Ten Review Committee consists of Committee Chair David A. Moody, Public Works/Engineering Director, City of Peoria, Arizona; Thomas A. Colbert, P.E., Public Works Director, City of Eagan, Minnesota; R. Marshall Elizer, Jr., P.E., Transportation Services Manager, Gresham, Smith & Partners, Nashville, Tennessee; Anthony W. Leffin, Public Works Director, City of Maitland, Florida; and Richard F. Stinson, Director of Public Works, Town of Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Winners of the 2007 Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year Award are:

John M. Bernal, P.E.
Deputy County Administrator of Public Works
Pima County, Arizona

As Deputy County Administrator of Public Works for Pima County, Arizona, John M. Bernal, P.E., oversees and provides leadership and guidance to the directors and employees of the following Public Works Departments: Development Services; Environmental Quality; Fleet Services; Graphic Services; Regional Flood Control District; Transportation; Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation; and Wastewater Management. The County Public Works Departments oversee and maintain 2,100 miles of roads, 80 bridges, 2,000 washes and tributaries, 96 parks, 4,000 historic sites and 3,200 miles of sewer lines.

Since 2001, Bernal has served a constituent-elected five-member Board of Supervisors and an appointed County Administrator. Through management and oversight, he has successfully led 1,700 employees comprising the eight Public Works Departments and an additional four support units in spearheading a County-wide vision of managed growth and sustainable infrastructure. He has been involved with organizing and developing a 20-year Regional Transportation Authority program for $2.1 billion in highway and transit funding improvements in the Pima County region.

From August through November 2004, Bernal helped coordinate the efforts of the Metropolitan Education Ad Hoc Committee on Infrastructure near School Sites that was formed to develop policy proposals supporting educators in their quest for adequate infrastructure near every existing and future school site in Pima County. This effort helped meet fundamental requirements for the safety of school children by developing eight policy recommendations in the areas of planning and development, capital improvement programming and regulatory review. It was a major accomplishment for the committee as a whole to develop the policy proposals in record time.

"His skills have produced significant positive changes in the Tucson, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico, regions, as well as throughout the 2000-mile international United States-Mexico border region." - David S. Fabiano, P.E., President, APWA Arizona Chapter

Lawrence E. Bombara
Superintendent of Public Works
Town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts

Lawrence E. Bombara has been the Superintendent of Public Works for the Town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, for more than 20 years. He began in 1973 as a truck driver and equipment operator for the Town of Douglas, Massachusetts. He became the wastewater treatment operator in 1974 and superintendent in 1977 before being hired by the Town of Uxbridge in 1985. Bombara was the first and remains the only Public Works Superintendent hired by the Town.

Bombara's accomplishments for the Town are many, including overseeing a 40-year rolling stock replacement program; developing the installation of a new state-of-the-art water tank, which came in on time and under budget; leading his team in successfully acquiring land for future well field expansion; receiving a $250,000 grant to establish a walking and bicycle trail in the historic Blackstone River Valley; establishing the Town's GIS and Asset Management programs; and successfully closing and capping a sewage sludge landfill, replacing it with a recycling center for the Town.

An active member of the New England Water Works Association, Bombara led an aggressive capital improvement program in this relatively small community (12,600 pop.) by negotiating with property owners to acquire three existing wells at a former mill site which increased capacity by one million gallons per day. Since 1990 the Town of Uxbridge has tripled its water supply, while building in system redundancy, service versatility and increased time of storage.

"Mr. Bombara has a long history in the public works field and in that time he has proven himself an incredibly talented and dedicated local and regional official." - Dr. Jennifer Callahan, State Representative, 18th Worcester District

Frank "Cheech" DeCelles
Public Works Director
City of Plantation, Florida

Frank "Cheech" DeCelles is the Public Works Director for the City of Plantation, Florida. The department consists of 115 employees and the following divisions: Administration, Crafts, City Garage, Small Engine Repair, Landscape, Streets and Drainage, Irrigation, Custodians, Grass Maintenance, Resource Recovery Solid Waste Customer Service, Sign & Traffic, and Sidewalk Divisions.

DeCelles established a Sidewalk Division due to the many liability issues the City of Plantation was facing. He conducted a complete inventory and inspection of all sidewalks totaling 491 miles. In addition, he established criteria as to who was responsible for the repair and has averaged 300 to 350 repairs a year. The successful program has dramatically decreased the amount of trip-and-fall incidents, saving the City huge amounts of money in medical and legal costs.

The City of Plantation has been honored as a Tree City USA for the past 25 years. During that time DeCelles has been responsible for the maintenance of 17,000 trees within the community. Along with the maintenance program the City has a very successful tree planting program; the division averages more than 200 new tree plantings each year. Under DeCelles's leadership, the City also participates in a "Community Planting" where the homeowners and the City each pay half the cost for the trees. City staff members volunteer to work with the residents on weekends sharing their knowledge and experience and educating about proper planting methods to assure a better than 95 percent survival rate.

"The consistent degree of excellent appearance and high standard of operational function is evident throughout Plantation and is in large part a direct result of his effective management and guidance." - Rae Carole Armstrong, Mayor, City of Plantation, Florida

H. Reed Fowler, Jr.
Director of Public Works
City of Newport News, Virginia

H. Reed Fowler, Jr., is the Director of Public Works for the City of Newport News, Virginia, population of 185,200. He is responsible for 350 employees in Administration; the Operational Divisions of Building Services, Security, Solid Waste, Stormwater, Street Maintenance and Wastewater; and in Asset Management and Customer Service. He has served in a leadership capacity in the Public Works Department since 1984.

Under Fowler's direction, a new maintenance program for the Back and Sidelot Ditch Crews was initiated utilizing the growing GIS capability in the Public Works Information Technology section. Before using GIS, the department cut and cleaned city ditches once a year. By using GIS, the cleaning process starts at every major stormwater outfall or exit point in each area of the city and then works backward until the entire feeder system of back ditches and swales in this "service area" are clean. This eliminated any previously unclean ditch sections' debris or sediment from moving into and blocking the cleaned service area. As a result, there are fewer repeat service calls and the department maximizes manpower capability to ensure the year-round cleanliness and drainage effectiveness of all back and sidelot ditches in the city.

Fowler's professional involvement includes APWA at the national level (National Accreditation Council) and the chapter level (Board of Directors, elected 2002), the American Society of Public Administrators, and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. His community service includes work with the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, United Way Campaign and Reformation Lutheran Church.

"Reed strongly believes in teamwork, and has established a number of teams to improve and enhance service delivery and response to emergencies as well as to citizen requests." - Randy W. Hildebrandt, City Manager, City of Newport News, Virginia

Bret Hodne
Superintendent of Public Works
City of West Des Moines, Iowa

Bret Hodne is responsible for the management of the Operations Division of the Public Works Department in West Des Moines, Iowa. The Operations Division employs 48 full-time employees and 12 seasonal part-time staff members and has a reputation of being a very customer service-oriented operation. Hodne is responsible for the Streets, Sewer, Unimproved Roads, Fleet Services, Building Services and Nuisance Abatement Divisions of the department.

For the past several years Hodne has served as a member of the Iowa LTAP Board of Directors. His leadership and vision have assisted greatly in the development of several key programs. One of the programs Hodne has devoted a significant amount of time to is the Road Scholars program. This program tracks the educational attendance of public agency employees that register and attend Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE)-sponsored training events. Throughout the program development process, Hodne provided CTRE with assistance to ensure the program would meet the envisioned goals.

For the past seven years Hodne has served as a member of the APWA Winter Maintenance Subcommittee. He chaired the subcommittee for several years, working diligently to revise the group's mission, invite new members and introduce new initiatives. Hodne and other members of the group are involved with several training initiatives that are being developed for the future. His leadership of this subcommittee has made it one of the most active groups in the APWA organization.

"Bret is innovative, creative, a problem solver and is willing to work with his staff, elected officials and the public to improve service delivery. Among his peers and employees he is a recognized leader." - Eugene T. Meyer, Commissioner, Iowa Department of Public Safety

Joseph C. Johnson, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Leawood, Kansas

Joseph C. Johnson, P.E., began his service with the City of Leawood, Kansas, in January 1996 as City Engineer. In August of 1996, he was promoted to the Director of Public Works. The Public Works Department has 53 employees, an annual operating budget of more than $15.2 million and is comprised of nine divisions: Administration, Engineering, Inspection, Fleet Maintenance, Facility Maintenance, Building Codes, Street Maintenance, Stormwater Management and Street Improvement Program.

Johnson implemented a program through the Fleet Maintenance Division to develop a vehicle replacement policy and vehicle replacement list for all City vehicles. This policy evaluates department vehicle replacement based on a ten-year planning horizon, thus aiding the City in its long-term budgeting and expenditure program. This also aids the City in planning on large purchases such as fire apparatus that range in cost between $500,000 to $1 million. The policy evaluates useful life and maintenance records to set a replacement date for each piece of equipment, allowing departments to replace vehicles prior to the time large maintenance expenditures are needed.

One of Johnson's principal commitments is to ensure that employees and coworkers have the motivation, education and training to enable them to carry out their responsibilities in an efficient and professional manner. He has followed through on his commitment by ensuring adequate budgets for training and encouraging his staff to participate in seminars and available educational opportunities. In addition, Johnson has supported staff's involvement and participation in professional organizations including APWA, the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers.[BW1]

"At Leawood, Joe has initiated many innovative processes to enhance the role of the department within the community with city agencies and officials, and professional growth of his staff within the Department of Public Works." - Mark R. Simpson, Managing Partner, LionsGate Golf Developers L.L.C., Overland Park, Kansas

Stuart A. Moring, P.E.
Director of Public Works
City of Roswell, Georgia

Since 1997, Stuart A. Moring, P.E., has been the Director of Public Works for the City of Roswell, Georgia, [BW2]responsible for solid waste management including curbside recycling collection and a regional dropoff recycling center, stormwater management and watershed protection, water supply treatment and distribution, environmental education and enforcement, fleet management, and liaison with Keep Roswell Beautiful, a volunteer environmental organization.

Moring founded the Erosion Control Task Force to coordinate policy and practice among all City departments, and ensure compliance with regulations by City crews. Recognizing the importance of education and enforcement to improvement in erosion control practices, the task force arranged for all City inspectors to receive the State three-day inspections course, and all construction supervisory staff to receive the DOT one-day Erosion Control Supervisors courses. The task force has conducted two seminars for developers and citizens to promote the best practice in erosion control.

Under Moring's guidance, the City of Roswell developed a proposal for a program of stormwater demonstration projects. This program received favorable consideration from the EPA and Congress, and four matching grant awards have been received totaling approximately $6 million. Two projects have been completed, a third is programmed for construction pending State approval and a fourth has been designed and is awaiting construction funding.

"In the Atlanta metropolitan area, water quality and non-point source water pollution problems threaten our environment just as in most urban areas of the country. Stu Moring has used his engineering expertise and leadership skills time and time again to make tremendous contributions not only to the City of Roswell but to our region and state to address these problems." - Pat Stevens, Chief, Environmental Planning Division, Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta, Georgia

William L. Pugh
Public Works Director
City of Tacoma, Washington

William L. Pugh began his career with the City of Tacoma, Washington, in 1974 as a traffic engineer and rose through the ranks to become Public Works Director in 1993. He oversees the operation and management of the following departments: Public Assembly Facilities; Human Rights & Human Services; and Community and Economic Development. In January 2006, Pugh was appointed Assistant City Manager in addition to his duties as Public Works Director.

Tacoma's curbside yard waste program began in 1990 during Pugh's tenure as Utilities Superintendent. The program continued to expand and evolve after he became Public Works Director. Yard waste recycling has increased more than 225 percent since the inception of the program. In addition, the curbside commingled recycling program was implemented in 1998 during Pugh's tenure as Public Works Director. The program is one of the most comprehensive in the nation.

Pugh was instrumental in the formation of an "Urban Village" Local Improvement District north of the downtown core area. This 11-block area will provide upgraded infrastructure to accommodate the construction of 2,600 additional living units, representing more than $300 million in private development construction. Due to Pugh's strong leadership in being able to communicate with the diverse community and offer innovative solutions to improve the city's infrastructure, the success of this private/public infrastructure partnership has caught the attention of other cities throughout Washington, as well as the cities of Vancouver, B.C., and Houston, Texas.

"His skilled management has taken brownfields and turned them into revenue-generating properties that have fueled hundreds of millions of dollars of economic development for the City of Tacoma." - Jay J. Manning, Director, Department of Ecology, State of Washington

Peter W. Steblin, P.Eng.
General Manager of Environmental & Engineering Services and City Engineer
City of London, Ontario

As General Manager of Environmental & Engineering Services and City Engineer for the City of London, Ontario, Peter W. Steblin, P.Eng., is responsible for Wastewater and Treatment; Roads, Transportation, Parking and Parks; Water, Environment, Animal Control and Customer Relations; Fleet, Facilities and Departmental Resources; and Administration and Development Services. The department has a total annual budget of more than $300 million and a staff of more than 800.

Steblin established the City of London Corporate Energy Management Program. Up to 50 buildings may be involved in an energy retrofit program that will proceed on a cost-recovery basis. In the meantime, the innovative electrical procurement strategy of block power purchases continues to provide dividends saving over $300,000. This initiative has also catalyzed the City's Facilities Asset Management System which is established and being data-populated and will serve as the information center for this significant initiative.

When Steblin's senior staff in the Wastewater & Treatment service area highlighted the scale of needs in the City's sewer system and treatment plants and the inadequacy of the sewer rates, he immediately supported a significant rate increase. He also encouraged development of longer-term plans that identify true needs and investigated opportunities for efficiencies. The plan balances the needs of the community, opportunity to service growth and needs specific to the environment. Over the past three years, Steblin has successfully received Council support for requested rate increases.

"Mr. Steblin has demonstrated leadership, technical capacity, integrity, and community awareness. His experience and personal commitment are the basis of this recommendation, as well as his positive record of achievement, and his personal commitment that London be well-positioned to meet its present and future environmental and related infrastructure challenges." - Tom Gosnell, Deputy Mayor, City of London, Ontario

Gary G. Warren, P.E.
Director of Airside Development
Metropolitan Airports Commission
Minneapolis, Minnesota

As Director of Airside Development for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gary G. Warren, P.E., is responsible for administering and managing all aspects of master planning and implementing construction projects with MAC's Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP includes not only the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), but also the six reliever airports located around the Twin Cities area. Warren annually prepares the CIP airfield portion, which entails a six-year outlook.

Accepting the challenge from Northwest Airlines operations to minimize low visibility impacts during fog and snowstorms, Warren spearheaded efforts with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and his consultant team to install enhanced approach lighting systems and navigation aids (NAVAIDS) on three runways at MSP. He applied project funding through the FAA's Cost Share Pilot Program (AIR-21) and was granted more than one-third of the installation cost.

Responding to FAA directives to correct Runway Safety Area (RSA) deficiencies, Warren led a team in evaluating cost-effective alternatives to address the length deficiency of the runway 30L RSA. After investigating more traditional multi-million-dollar tunnel solutions, he convinced MAC and the FAA that a new cellular cement-block arresting system, an Engineered Material Arresting System, would be the best solution. Since its completion in 1999, he has made several presentations, given personal tours and answered questions of other airports and consultants from around the country interested in this technology. FAA now accepts this as a viable, cost-effective solution for addressing RSA length deficiencies.

"Mr. Warren has built a relationship with Air Traffic Control that fosters openness for accepting input on innovative ways of moving aircraft. He excels at not only directing and managing his staff, but also in relying on them for their expertise and openly welcoming their input." - Dawn M. Holst, Air Traffic Manager, Federal Aviation Administration, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Editor's Note: To see the Top Ten recipients from 1960 to 2007, go to APWA's National Awards Program web page at www.apwa.net/About/awards.asp?Display=top10list.