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Where are they now - Tom Colbert

February 25, 2019

Where are they now - Tom Colbert
Article contributed by Dave Hutton, Chair, History Committee
Tom retired from the City of Eagan in May 2012. He was the Past President in 2005 – the first of the “3 Toms regime” along with Tom Klatt (2006) and Tom Montgomery (2007). We recently had a chance to ask Tom a few questions regarding the good life in Arizona and his responses are below.
1. Please provide a brief history of your Public Works Career

 34 years with City of Eagan as City Engineer and/or Director of Public Works (Author’s note – I believe he was the first ever PWD for Eagan). Prior to that, 5 years combined as Asst City Engineer with cities of Fridley and Brooklyn Park. 

2. What were the changes that happened in Public Works during your career that had the greatest impact on your ability to work at your agency? 
The biggest changes during my career were obviously the advancement and application of expanding technologies (i.e., CADD, Computers, etc.) along with ever-expanding environmental regulations, differing funding sources and pavement management. Whether they were positive or negative was all in how you perceived and subsequently dealt with them. Hindsight, being 20/20, proves them all to be positive events. Increasing public interaction and communication became increasingly essential to successful projects.
3. What were some of your greatest challenges in Public Works?
Some of the greatest challenges (and frustrations!) were the continuous increase of environmental requirements without the ability to adequately fund them. (So what’s new, you say!?!?)
4. Why and how did you first become involved in APWA – MN?
My involvement in APWA-MN (or MPWA as I still like to call it!) began right away. Being a young engineer in new growing communities, I quickly realized the benefit of learning from others and their experiences. APWA was not only a highly professional organization, but comprised of a LOT of friendly, knowledgeable and fun people more than willing to share and help.
5. What positions did you hold with our APWA Chapter or committees served on?
Through my many years of valued membership, I was the chair of the History Committee along with the Fall & Spring Conference planning committees, Board of Directors, and eventually all of the executive offices up to and including President. I also served on APWA’s national Top Ten Selection Committee. (Author’s note: Tom is too modest – he was one of our Top Ten Award recipients in 2005 !!)
6. What benefits did you receive both professionally and personally with your involvement in APWA?
See #4 above.
7. What are some of your best memories of activities or events with the Chapter?
LOVED the Spring Conferences, summer golf outings and the annual APWA EXPOs. 
8. Any advice or words of wisdom that you would like to share with future APWA chapter leaders or young members?
Continue to integrate varied social activities and interactions along with all the great technical learning and sharing opportunities. It’s a lot easier (and more fun) to learn from friends.
9. On a personal note, tell us a little bit about your life in retirement – where do you live, what kind of hobbies, your family, etc.
Ahhh, retirement. Life in the slow lane……NOT!! It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 7 years already. Time flies when it’s filled with world travel, weddings, grandchildren, golf, tennis, pickleball, more golf, sunshine, and endless margaritas, interrupted only by spontaneous naps. Last year we became official residents of Goodyear Arizona (retirement resort community in SW valley of Phoenix), but we still maintain a condo in Bloomington to stay connected with 40 years of good friends and beautiful Minnesota summers. Our two daughters and son are all married with growing families living in Portland, OR; Olympia, WA; and Jackson Hole, WY (all great places for visiting on our travels to and from AZ). Author’s note: if you can’t tell from the picture, Tom and Karen unapologetic, extreme to the max, avid supporters of St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish.
10. Final question – do you miss us?
Thank you for staying touch through this outreach article. I periodically surf your web page to see what’s happening, who’s changing jobs, getting well-deserved recognitions or moving on. GREAT work APWA-MN! Carry On!!!

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