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Past President's Message

June 12, 2017

Past President's Message

APWA-MN Chapter 2017 Spring Conference Recap

June 12, 2017

By Sue Mason, APWA-MN Chapter Past President, SEH, Inc.

Another memorable Spring Conference! Thanks to our Conference Planning Committee and Mother Nature for really putting on a great conference! Spring Conference is so much more than just a conference. It is a chance to retreat from the daily grind for a few days, check up on your friends and colleagues, meet new people and learn something new at the same time. And sometimes we are lucky and the weather is sunny and mild - and there’s a full moon…

Here are a few highlights:

This year, we were very pleased to have Bo Mills, APWA President-Elect, and Chuck Williams, our APWA Region VI Director, join us. Among the distinguished guests was Lee Gustafson, our very own 2017 APWA Top Ten Leaders of Public Works fame! Congratulations Lee!

The evening session was lighter fare with some comedy, magic with a little teamwork provided by members of the audience that added to the magic and the comedy! MagicNorm had a couple good tricks up his sleeve and very likeable - goofy and playful.

The next day was a “super session” with Sara Taylor of deepSee Consulting entitled “Seeing the Difference: Cultural Competence for Today’s Workplace.” She was a great speaker with a lot of energy and real life examples that elevated the material she presented. We learned that you cannot be successful in reaping the benefits of diversity without being good at inclusion. Most importantly, we need to build our skills in cultural competence to really be effective and not just along the lines of typically held concepts of diversity – race and gender. Sara led us to an understanding that people experience difference on many levels. Everyone comes with filters and cultural backgrounds that are very complex and often different from each other. Only 2.5% of us have the competence to see the differences and then adapt to them to be our most effective. Most of what we think comes from our unconscious and often that unconscious response is bias. That means that the vast majority of us are at best missing key differences that are at play and, at worst, unintentionally offending others. The good news is that we can develop that competence in anyone and at any workplace. The reason that this is so important is to improve overall communication at all levels so that we can effectively retain the diverse talent that is needed to be competitive in the market place - especially in recruiting and retaining a talented workforce.

This year was the second year we completed service project at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gull Lake Recreational Area. This year’s job was to plant 1,300 seedlings. We had another great turnout – 50 plus people gathered and in traditional public works fashion we had fun getting it done - in under an hour easy. Mary, the Park Ranger, was thrilled and very appreciative. We briefly scoped out next year’s project. More than one person noticed that the park is badly in need of new signage and Mary mentioned she really needs new highway signs. I hope the Chapter can step up and solve this one for them since it is totally in our “wheel house.”

The Friday morning session on “Advocating for Minnesota’s Infrastructure was outstanding. We always appreciate getting an update from the MN Transportation Alliance, MnDOT and League of Minnesota Cities. This session, had a special emphasis on advocacy and also included Rebecca Otto, Minnesota State Auditor, and Stu Lourey, field representative for Senator Al Franken (who had a recorded a special note to us). Heather Corcoran had a very interesting presentation about advocacy tools and how to testify to the legislature. A special thanks goes to Kristin Asher for her work in putting it together and Andrea Eales, APWA Director of Government Affairs, for moderating. At the end of the session, Bo Mills, APWA President-Elect, let us know specifically how impressed he was with the Chapter’s ability to pull together such a comprehensive discussion about advocacy.

As always, looking forward to next year! Hope to see you there.

See photo gallery for more photos.

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