Public Works: It Starts Here

Public Works: It Starts Here

It is common for many to turn their tap and expect water without considering its journey to the faucet. Many commuters expect clear roadways without considering the work involved with patching potholes or plowing heavy snow. However, at Woodard & Curran, these functions of a public works department are at the forefront of our minds as we plan, design, oversee the construction of, and operate various facilities across the country. As we round out National Public Works Week, we talked to some of our operations managers to hear firsthand why their passionate about public works and the communities in which they work. 

The City’s Engine 

Dan Held, project manager for public works in Carlinville, IL, started his career at the Illinois Department of Transportation before pursuing a water/wastewater license and later a master’s in public administration. He quips, “If the city were a car, public works would certainly be its engine.” Just as you couldn’t drive a car without an engine, you wouldn’t be able to do laundry or drive to the grocery store, and the grocery store wouldn’t matter because it would be difficult to cook food and clean the kitchen. “Our job is vitally important,” says Dan. “The more efficiently we do our job, the better it is for the general public.” 

“It’s easier to list what we don’t do,” says Andy Jackson, project manager for public works in Monmouth, IL. “We provide all public services with the exception of public safety, zoning, building, or garbage pickup.” In other words, public works departments treat and deliver safe drinking water, collect and treat wastewater and stormwater, maintain roadways from paving to plowing, keep public spaces clean and lawns trimmed, and other responsibilities as needed. Both Dan and Andy also handle capital planning and work closely with their respective city administration to propose and manage annual operating budgets. 

While getting residents to understand how critical public works is to a city’s operation, Andy says, “the biggest battle is funding because there’s always more to do than there is money to do it. You have to keep up with priorities, fix current problems, and plan for the future.”

Ever Changing Technology, Regulations, and Budgetary Constraints

“Public works is becoming more and more complex,” says Joe Geary, an area manager who oversees five drinking water contracts in Massachusetts. “Our operations and management practice alleviates some of the burden off the city having to staff its public works department or treatment facilities with experienced operators.” 

Woodard & Curran utilizes its varied expertise to navigate ever changing regulations for drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and other sectors. Our staff at facilities and departments across the country are staying current with protocols to ensure these new regulations are met. Furthermore, the evolving technology that automates facilities requires technologically savvy staff to operate. With a dedicated SCADA team at our firm, we are easily able to integrate the latest innovations to optimize plant operations. 

Our diversity allows us to take a step back, assess needs, and pull together our resources to address immediate, upcoming, and long-term projects for clients. With this in mind, we can look at the funding landscape from an operations standpoint and identify resources to finance projects. For many communities, public works had the second largest operating budget after school systems. Whenever we can assist in securing funding to reduce the impact on rate and taxpayers, we do.  

A Satisfying Career

Andy says, “It can be very satisfying when you lay a plan out for improvement to the community’s betterment and you see the impact when it is complete.” However, he’s quick to add that public works is a challenging career that requires dedication because residents expect water to flow, roads to be cleared of snow, and all that public works employees do regardless of if it’s the weekend, a holiday, or middle of the night. “Residents depend on us heavily.” 

Whether it’s a plant upgrade or inputting old written documentation into the city’s asset management software system, Dan revels in the satisfaction of a job planned, prepared, and completed, especially when it serves to better the community. In Dan’s early career, he worked a second job roofing. “I loved walking up to something, taking a picture, then seeing the comparison after we were done and how much better it looked when we finished,” says Dan. “I like that I have this same opportunity with infrastructure in Carlinville.” 

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Operations Leader
Operations & Management

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