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President's Message

March 17, 2020

President's Message

Hey! Since I have your attention, thank you for taking the time to read this article. As the president of the chapter, one of my duties is to provide a quarterly message to you, the members. Knowing you are busy and have lots of things demanding your attention, I will get right to business. 

Since there are a fair number of you that don’t know me very well, I will give you the nickel tour to start off. I am the Public Works Director (8 years) for Eagan where I have been employed going on 23 years. Prior to that, I worked for two other metro cities, some consultants, a county and the state. I am a civil engineer and a Jackrabbit (SDSU for those that don’t know). I’ve been married to Missy for nearly 28 years and have a 15-year-old daughter, Lissa, and a 13-year-old son, Isaac. I enjoy the outdoors - sports, hunting and camping. I’m proud of what we do as a profession and I enjoy telling our story, especially through STEM events. I’d enjoy getting to know you and will save any other details for that opportunity.

So, what can I tell you about APWA and, more specifically, this chapter of which you are a member? Through my experience, as I’ve gotten more involved in the chapter, I’ve learned that it consists of members that are fabulous people. And while I am on the older end of the membership, I’ve found that it doesn’t take lots of years of experience for our members to be amazing. Members, both young and old, have inspired me to join them as they share their passion for public works and strive to enhance the quality of life for all of us in Minnesota. The ideas, as well as the commitment to step up and take action, continue to excite me as we collectively support the long-term success of our communities. Part of that game plan for victory includes encouraging and educating ourselves.

Who are these wonderful people that are members of our chapter that are doing such great things? They are people like Chuck Schwartz who chairs the Public Awareness Committee. Chuck is a consultant engineer (MSA) and a long-term member. Chuck is leading the effort to have a permanent display about public works, and additional similar messaging throughout, placed in the Science Museum. His efforts, with your support, can tell more than 800,000 people each year, many of them students looking for a career that will serve the public, details about what we do and how our efforts make a difference in the lives of all Minnesotans.

They include people like Nina Stanley who is a director on the Executive Committee, as well as a member on the Conference Planning Committee. Nina is a consultant engineer (SRF) and a 10-year member. In addition to actively assisting in the planning of the Spring Conference, Nina just coordinated the chapter’s involvement in a STEM outreach effort entitled WISE, an acronym for Women in Science and Engineering. Through her efforts, six female members shared their stories about their roles in public works and invited future generations of young women to consider public works as their career of choice.

They are people like Chris LaBounty who was one of the founding members of the Young Professional (YP) Committee in 2014. Through this committee, Chris has helped encourage hundreds of YPs to try speed networking, student/young professional mentoring, tours of public works facilities, and conference mentorship programs. Chris now represents the YP Committee on the Executive Committee as their director. He is the City Engineer for Plymouth and has been a chapter member for less than 10 years.

They include people like Monica Heil who chairs the Education & Training Committee. Monica is a civil engineer who has worked for both public agencies and private consultants, as she does currently (WSB), throughout her 9-year membership. With her assistance and leadership, the chapter is leading the way for public works professionals at all levels to enhance their knowledge and leadership skills to help develop tomorrow’s public works champions today. Programs such as the Underground Utilities Construction Inspector School, Public Works Certificate Program, and Leadership Academy, just to name a few, have helped to develop many of our upcoming superstars.

They are people like Ali Elhassan, Manager of the Water Supply Planning unit at the Metropolitan Council, who has been a chapter member for 5 years. Ali helps educate our members on the importance of sustainability of our water resources and the role that water conservation can play. He is also an advocate for the diversity of the chapter membership and public works profession, supporting the outreach efforts of the Diversity Committee.

I could have spoken about many more members with numerous examples of chapter endeavors that they are supporting for the advancement of the public works profession, but hopefully, I’ve made my point. Your Minnesota Chapter of APWA is alive and well and prepared to do whatever it takes to enable the success of its members, both now and well into the future. And it’s the members that are making it all happen.  

As we prepare for the future (one that is currently changing as much each day as it has at any time in my professional career), I am confident in only a few things. One of these things is the success of the Minnesota Chapter of APWA, routinely one of the top three chapters in APWA. Your active participation as a member-only ensures that this will continue.


Russ Matthys
President, APWA-MN Chapter

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