The Public Works Nerds

A Conversation with the MN Chapter of APWA: Events, Committees, Strategic Plans, and Professional Development

September 19, 2023 Marc Culver, PE Season 1 Episode 18
The Public Works Nerds
A Conversation with the MN Chapter of APWA: Events, Committees, Strategic Plans, and Professional Development
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join us and we talk with the Officers of the Minnesota Chapter of APWA. We talk about the history of the chapter, the committees, conferences, and their strategic plan. This is a lively and fun discussion with some very dedicated and devoted public works nerds!

Our distinguished guests - President Monica Heil, Vice President Jupe Hale, Secretary/Treasurer Mitch Hoeft, Past President Nick Egger, and Chapter Delegate Chris Petree.

Show notes:
https://www.apwa-mn.org/

APWA MN Strategic Plan
http://www.apwa-mn.org/userfiles/ckfiles/files/APWA-MN%20Strategic%20Plan%20Infographic_2022-23.pdf


Monica Heil:

Welcome to the public works nerds podcast.

Marc Culver:

Welcome to the public works nerds podcast, a public works podcast of the nerds, by the nerds and for the nerds. I'm your host, Marc Culver. Thank you for joining us today. We are join. We're gonna try something a little daring, maybe A little a kind of on the wild side. We've never had this many guests. And how many guests are we talking about here? Know, we don't just have one guest, we don't just have two guests, not even three, but we have five Guests with us today. I, we are joined by the Minnesota the board of the Minnesota chapter of the APWA. So thank you all for coming here and joining us today. We might get a little crazy. I hope we do get a little crazy. I hope we have a little bit of fun. But let's, we'll see where we end up. So our guests today are not necessarily in seating order. President Monica Hile, vice president jupel, secretary and treasurer Mitch have. Thank you. Thank you, past president Nick Egger, a public works nerds podcast veteran, um chapter delicate delegate Chris Petrie, also delicate easy is delicate.

Mitch Hoeft:

Delegate delegate.

Chris Petree:

Thank you, delegate appreciate that I am very delicate.

Marc Culver:

He's a hockey player really delicate about yeah, unfortunately, the chapter alternate delegate, amy growth house, could not join us today, but we want to give her recognition and a little shout out to Amy, so so let's jump in. Why don't each of you just kind of quickly introduce yourselves and and what you do for an actual job Outside of I know you guys spend a lot of hours on APWA stuff, but outside of that, what do you do? Monica will start with you thanks, mark.

Monica Heil:

As my day job, I am the vice president of municipal services at WSB, so we're a consulting firm serving municipalities, serving public works departments, and I oversee our groups that do water, wastewater work, municipal community planning work and also land development, and so I'm really excited to be here on the podcast today. Thanks for inviting me.

Marc Culver:

And I'm just gonna jump in and say that Monica is very careful that we didn't have any bottled water on the table and, as public works professionals, we all felt very strongly that, you know, as we represent water treatment plants and utilities, we shouldn't have any bottled water. So this is all tap water? Well, maybe it's, but mostly tap water that's on the table here.

Jupe Hale:

So, anyway, you, Hi, jupail, I'm with city maple Grove. I'm assistant city engineer, assistant public works director there, so do a myriad of On going development projects and reconstruction projects and I thank you for having the not having the bottle of water, because we all know city water is the best water, so we get ahead very good and very good for you.

Marc Culver:

Yes, delicious.

Chris Petree:

Next up I'm Chris Petrie. I'm, as Mark mentioned, the chapter delegate for APWA Minnesota. I work for Southview design, a Minnesota based landscape design, build and maintenance contractor. But why am I here and what has been my involvement, my past involvement? About 28 years of my career was spent in the public and private sectors, serving as a director public works in three communities and then also working for WSB, and actually still working very part time for WSB so great.

Mitch Hoeft:

Thanks for being here yeah Right, my name is Mitchell Hath. I work for Bolton and me. I'm a principal engineer and I'm in one of the leaders of the trench list pipeline group. So we eight cities in replacing public utilities and the most cost effective, politically sensitive and environmentally friendly ways possible. So In Minnesota we have a huge investment in our roadways. Oftentimes these utilities are kind of left untouched and we get to come in afterwards and try and find a creative way of replacing those without Damaging the infrastructure on top. So kind of a fun challenge and it's been a great way to get into the industry.

Marc Culver:

Awesome. Thanks, mitch, and everybody who's listening to spot gas should know what this next person is Go ahead.

Nick Egger:

Nick, I was almost going to say something just like that. Your, your previous listeners will will recognize me, nick Egger. I'm public works director for the city of Rose Mount for the past two years. Prior to that, I was Public works director at the city of Hastings. But if you can think of it, public works departments generally are involved in some facet of it. But in Rose Mount we've got streets, utilities, parks, maintenance, asset management, gis engineering, just to name a few, and I get the the pleasure of overseeing all of that operation and Looking forward to continuing with a lot of exciting things there, as well as making another appearance here and contributing to the show yeah, great thanks, nick.

Marc Culver:

And, as Nick said, as we alluded to, he was episode number 14. Of the public works nerds podcast up, nick and I talked about public works crisis and it's great episode. Go back, listen to it. Nick talks about a water contamination issue he had at the city of Hastings and how he managed that. So Talking about water quality and in such, but just really interesting about how that was managed and handled because of the high quality expectations we have for drinking water. So, anyway, enough serious stuff, let's, let's move on. Thanks everybody, thanks again for joining us. So you know, we recently did an episode on city engineers association. I thought you know, let's let's talk about some of the other organizations in Minnesota, some professional organizations that Help out for public works. Professionals do their job and get and be better at at their job, and I think APW is a great Okay. So, yeah, thanks, so much Projects tomorrow, because we are looking forward to seeing you at All. Right, so I usually talk about how I split a lot of this program, but, thank you, we, our volunteers, have come before us just to put it in one walk. So example of that and we did we've had. I talked about another episode. We had the CEO of APW, scott Grayson, on and he kind of talked about the national perspective. But let's talk about what goes on. I think this is where you know this is really the boots on the ground. This is really where members interact the most with APW is at that chapter level. So I kind of wanted to bring you guys in and talk about what. What do you do at the chapter level? Some some of the history of APW, minnesota and you know we'll get into how people can get more involved and stuff like that. But let's jump into Monica. You can start us off by talking up, talking to us a little bit about the history of the Minnesota chapter, apw and sure sure.

Monica Heil:

So APW a, of course stands for the American Public Works Association. We've got the national level that Scott's part of and we have. We interact with the national level through our delegates, which are Chris Petrie and Amy Grote House, but at the chapter level really follow the model developed at national and then bring it more directly to our membership. So our chapter's been in existence for just over 75 years. We recently celebrated our 75th anniversary, which is where my APW a drinking glass came from. But the chapter was founded in 1946. That's when it began in Minnesota and our first president was a gentleman by the name of Hugo G Erickson, for which we now have an award named where after him, where every year we recognize one member of the chapter for their exceptional performance, dedication, commitment to the chapter and what we do here. And what we do here is really advocate and educate for public works. And I think in Minnesota in particular we're very fortunate to have both public and private representation in public works. As you went around the table here you can see private, public, private, public, private. As our officers come through APW a, we are very intentional in looking for public and then private and then again public representation at our, at our officers level, to continue to engage All aspects of public works, those that are the owners and serving the cities and those that may be the designers and working on the engineering and the planning and the design of the infrastructure that's going to be maintained. And so we work very hard to bring education to the chapter and very hard to promote what we're doing as a chapter, not just within our own networks but outside of our networks, educating the public at just educating legislators and really just getting the word out about public works. So we're thrilled to be here and I want to leave some talking points for some other. I guess we're done Covered it all.

Chris Petree:

Everyone else will dive in with the rest of this.

Monica Heil:

Everyone else got content. We're very fortunate to be as active and involved as we are.

Marc Culver:

And you know, I think, as we get into some of the specific activities of the chapter I juke, you are as the vice president. You're also the co-chair of the, the planning committee for your, for your fall conference and such. So I want to talk a little bit about that and the effort behind. I think it's a great conference, brings a lot of great topics to. So you know all of us public works professionals to learn about.

Jupe Hale:

Sure, and that's how I was going to add to a monocle was described me say, I think another big piece of what APWA is, apwa does is the connectivity piece, and that gets a little bit to both the other pieces, which is education and sort of advocacy kind of provides a way for us to connect with each other, share message, find common ground and also learn about things and the things people are doing. And the conferences that we have we actually fall and a spring conference really provides sort of that. That know that connectivity for everybody, where we have some education sessions where we bring forward a committee has been bringing forward some topics that are, you know, big picture topics, not even necessarily related to public works, leadership type stuff, things going on in the state and the world, as well as some smaller sessions that are targeted towards different areas of technical expertise. That all kind of comes together in a couple of days in the fall. We also have a membership event one of the nights where we all just get together and have a social hour with some activity plan. That it's a little competition in there. We all like to have a little bit of that gets the juices flowing there some. And we also talk about our awards for our projects and things. At that conference. We swear in the new officers for the next coming year and so it's. The fall conference really gathers all those things that our chapters does kind of together. Our spring conference is a little more of a retreat style, one little less attendance there, but it really lets us kind of set our set our sights together here for the upcoming sort of construction seasons and the rest of the year there.

Marc Culver:

So yeah, and if you're allowed to say, I don't know if the information is public or not, but what's the social activity this year for the fall conference?

Jupe Hale:

We really released that mid-term.

Mitch Hoeft:

Should we? I think? I think it's safe enough to release it.

Jupe Hale:

We're dropping us on Tuesday, so Well, it has evolved from bowling to top golf. We had tribute contest last year, but this year we're really happy and excited to do a beanbag or cornhole tournament right there on site. So it kind of accomplishes a lot of goals for us, which is not to have a big mass commute to some place somewhere else where we tend to lose some folks. It also gets some competition in there. Like I said, we like that. But it's also an event that non-participants can be a part of too and it increases our, our reach there and people that take part and stay for the extra couple hours after the tournament. So we're happy to have. Mitch may want to share a little more about that, but that's kind of excited to have a new event there.

Mitch Hoeft:

I mean challenges, right, maximize our attendance. 120 cornhole players, try and get done within two hours in a tournament setting. I think everybody's saying good luck, right, we're going to figure it out. There might be an iterative process to get there, but, yeah, really looking forward to it. We look back at some photos of past events and I found some photos last week of our past bowling events that we had and they're 15 years old now. So I look just like a little child, right and but everybody looks younger Well, maybe if I can just interrupt, I remember those bowling events number one.

Chris Petree:

Monica and I were on a team that won it one year I wasn't. I wasn't the reason for that, monica and other team members. But, but I think Mitch was maybe PW pause at the time.

Jupe Hale:

Yes if I'm not mistaken so that's our mascot for those.

Mitch Hoeft:

Yeah, for those that don't know, it's about a 10 foot tall inflatable tiger. It should get in and basically you take a bath in your own sweat, right, so so, and you get on. What? Sales pitch.

Nick Egger:

Yeah.

Mitch Hoeft:

Yeah.

Marc Culver:

Yeah. So if you yeah, what's to do that this year.

Mitch Hoeft:

But no, we, we looked at those pictures and gosh, just the people having fun in the spectators. And to me we'll get into a little bit about this, but that's that's. The strength of this chapter is in networking the relationships and in the people component, right, right, and we're an engineering group and everybody you know we're a pretty fun engineering group. So just sharing that, sharing those memories, looking at those photos, we're trying to kind of recreate that feeling of what we used to have. Now we're at a different venue, that bowling alley cannot accommodate us anymore. So we've lost that for a few years and ever since we've been trying to kind of recreate that feeling of giving people a home after the conference is out to get together. And I think we're getting closer.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, I love the concept of, like you said, keeping it, you know, at the facility and we'll get into that a little bit where you are right now and where you were, but I think you will get more participation. People have to move to a different place and maybe you'll get some more people to actually spend the night as a result of that too.

Mitch Hoeft:

So I think it's tough to keep people out of it. We're at Mystic right now, right, so there's a casino there, and Trying to keep a bunch of us out of the casino and focused on the task at hand is always a challenge, so you got to create an environment that they want to be in.

Jupe Hale:

Well say it's events like that that I think really works on. That kind of activity makes it strong, because we may not be talking necessarily about work or technical topics while we're doing it, but we're establishing relationships and so when during the work day or something, when something does come up, you feel pretty comfortable emailing or calling that person because you developed a little, you know, working relationship with that person and you can now have a technical conversation and learn what they know. That would help you.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, that's a great point. You know before, and I know Chris has to leave in a little bit here, but before you leave I wanted to talk a little bit as, since you're the delegate, maybe talk a little bit about that relationship between the national organization and the local chapter and what the delegates role in that is.

Chris Petree:

Yeah, so really, the delegate is there to represent and be an advocate for the local chain or local chapters or branches. I should say and if Scott was on he probably went through the whole list of what APW is about- we have sixty eight, sixty five, sixty eight total chapters and branches across the United States and Canada, and so with that everyone's just a little bit different and I love listening to everybody. I don't know if I'm the one that's been involved the longest. I've been in APW, in Minnesota's chapter, since ninety nine and I don't know. I'm guessing you might be the next one after me or Nick, but anyways. So I've watched it evolve and one of the things as I got involved on a national level and all of us here know that we are really just a and I'm tooting our own horn but a step above so many other chapters and branches. So what I have to bring back from national to help our chapter thrive is very little compared to a lot of the other chapters. It's more I feel, conveying what we're doing as a chapter, how we're succeeding, that I'm providing that to national and then on occasion when we need support or need something else, that's my role, or Amy's role to step in and be able to communicate with the right people at national.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, and all those other APW chapters are listening. Send hate mail directly to Chris Petrie.

Chris Petree:

Yeah, I'm not going to post my email address and I shouldn't say that because everybody's in a different spot, but it really makes you feel good. It really comes down to Mitch mentioned it earlier the group of people that we have. You know, this is just a fantastic group of people. I owe so much in my career to my relationship with this organization and I think we're just so fortunate here. So that's not to badmouth anyone else, but I think the way and years before I was even involved, the folks that came before me and established the chapter and kind of a lot of the things that we do for education, outreach, networking, events, we owe a lot to them and we've just continued to build on that.

Jupe Hale:

And I'll share a quick story from PWX and the National One in San Diego. I was talking to a gentleman from somewhere in Nebraska or something like that and he asked how to come a few questions how do you do this, how do you do that? And I answered about five of them with what. We have a committee for that and you know our committees have 10 to 25 people strong all active doing that stuff and he was just he was kind of doing three of those five things just himself and I felt like I felt bad saying, well, now, we have kind of we have people for that, so we do have a strong chapter that way.

Nick Egger:

And part of that is just the sheer numbers where we just heard earlier in our meeting this afternoon. We're up over 1100 members for the chapter. That's grown 150ish maybe over the last two years, plus or minus, but I think, proportionate to many of the other chapters across the country. We've got very high rate of participation and activity. So that just feeds into everything that we're trying to accomplish. Like you mentioned, with that many committee members on all of the one we have 15, 16 committees doing different things. The strength is really in that, that engagement, and it's allowed us to have all the successes that we have, and it shows up in the fact that we have.

Jupe Hale:

We have a position that just receives people that want to be on a committee and try to find them a spot Versus us trying to gather people to get on a committee and can you help us? Can you help us? We more trying to place people where needs are, and we have often have more requests to be on committees and we have spots available.

Marc Culver:

So so you do actually, you do actually limit the Well, try not to.

Jupe Hale:

Membership on the committees or Try not to, but I mean, at some point they get on wheelie with too many people.

Chris Petree:

If I could just interject, because I don't think I fully answered. I went off on a tangent, talking about how great our chapter is.

Marc Culver:

Which is it is awesome.

Chris Petree:

Thank you. Thank you, but I do want to say what do we gain from national and what does national provide? And what's that conduit and the information? Of course the framework and Monica and others have mentioned the framework kind of trickles down from national and the national committees on to you know, at a chapter or branch level. I think one of the things is APWA has grown and they've added staff, their government affairs group. We've had their director of government affairs and some of the support staff come help us. We formed the government affairs committee a handful of years ago with some of their guidance and input. So I think, by not only being a member of the larger organization but what my role or Amy's is also to make, to have that conduit and that connection, because our government affairs group, apwa, even though they're based out of Kansas City, they have an office and staff in DC that can help us really advocate and bring awareness to public work. So I just wanted to not exclude that national does provide besides just the framework. That's a huge component for us.

Marc Culver:

Actually, let's talk a little bit more about that government relations and advocacy and that I know a couple or a few years ago, pre-COVID, you guys started an effort. There's kind of an offshoot of APWA, I think called Razor Grade, so maybe talk about that and how that is intertwined with APWA and that.

Nick Egger:

Nick do you want to take that one, nick? Well, I'll give it my best shot. Yeah, razor Grade was really intended to strike up engagement with the general public in a way, by offering an avenue between residents or citizens and their elected officials to identify public works or infrastructure-related concerns that are out there that the public recognizes and to try to exert some additional pressure or influence on elected officials to help out with the needs there. He's really played into utilizing the ASC's report card on infrastructure, not only in the state of Minnesota but nationwide, and clearly pointing out that there's deficit of attention paid to infrastructure and we felt a lot of that has to do with it's just not the top priority on people's minds. They're not something that's exciting to talk about. In public works we kind of fly out of the radar and you don't realize that it's even there until something's wrong. We talk about that a lot. We've talked a lot about we make normal happen. We make normal happen at a different time.

Marc Culver:

Yeah.

Jupe Hale:

Nobody knows our names until somebody gets sacked. Then they know our names.

Nick Egger:

And so raise our grade, was set up initially as a website to kind of centralize this opportunity, for anyone in the state can punch in their zip code that they live in and then they can send a message directly to their elected official with those sorts of concerns or just pointing out something that the resident or citizen is interested in having the elected officials work towards in the legislative sessions. So it's things like this that are another piece of what we strive for in the organization, that advocacy piece. We're good at telling the story in a technical way, but that doesn't turn people on very easily, and so we want to use ordinary, everyday common language and utilize the public's opinions and voices to help further advance those things.

Chris Petree:

Yeah, and if I can just interject with the raise our grade to, even before raise our grade, that was kind of a spin off of the ASC report card, of course, and that's fantastic. But even before that, years ago, our president at the time, dan Gage, who was with McQueen Equipment, was challenged by the national president at that time APWA national president to undertake an advocacy platform that we referred to as Minnesota 2050. That we've since rebranded, but that was really the jumping off point and, to be honest, a lot of time and effort was invested by not only our chapter members but also a number of other partners I think 17, 18 different partner groups to do things. And then it kind of quite honestly, hit kind of a lull and dipped until our chapter picked up the raise our grade effort. That was just kind of a continuation of some of the intent of the original Minnesota 2050. So I just want to make sure to give credit to all of our longtime Minnesota 2050 folks that have been around as well.

Monica Heil:

Which has since been rebranded. And talking about all the different committees and what individuals and their teams are being charged with. We've tried to centralize or combine some efforts so that we weren't duplicating and maximizing the resources which we're all volunteers here, maximizing the impact that we're having. And Minnesota 2050 has been reborn as something we're now calling the Minnesota Infrastructure Alliance, or MINIA, if you want a nice way to put an acronym to it. But the Minnesota Infrastructure Alliance is Minnesota 2050, it's raise our grade, it's working with our government affairs committee and it's working to continue to promote not only the work that we're doing but also the infrastructure needs that we are going to have in the future. And what does that mean? Relative to the report card, relative to funding and all these different opportunities? We have to educate not only the public but our legislators about what is going to be required to continue to deliver this unseen service that nobody notices until you're sacked. So it's and we've got. The wonderful thing about the Minnesota chapter is we have had so many volunteers step up to say I want to help with this, and those volunteers have started out on committees, they've become committee chairs and then ultimately they get elected to director or officers positions and it's just been a really great way to continue to provide opportunity within the organization for people to keep elevating themselves and having bigger impacts. And so for so many reasons, beyond just the external facing things, it does a lot for our people internally too to continue to have these opportunities.

Marc Culver:

Do you? How much do you think that's changed? I mean, chris, you said you've been an APWA member since 1999, but all of you have been involved in APWA for many years. But like how much more of a focus do you say that advocacy and that legislative focus has been over the last, has changed over the last five, 10 years?

Monica Heil:

I think there's more focus specifically as we try to become more sophisticated in telling our story and working at a much higher level, sometimes even the federal level, to identify opportunities for funding and the reasons that funding is needed. I think it's always been taking place. We are just now more savvy in our understanding of what needs to be done to actually get things to happen, and so we've got a government affairs person at the national level and, chris mentioned, we've got folks in DC that are working on behalf of APWA national. I think we've just evolved in how we've been working towards this.

Jupe Hale:

And it's continuing to evolve. I mean, the challenge has always been okay, we want to advocate and we want to do that, but how? Where do we apply to resources and in what way? And I think we've gotten better about defining that so that the goals become clearer. I think that's still evolving. No, I think we're not quite as far along as we'd like to be in terms of how much do we spend here, how many people do we put on this, what do we, you know? But I think that's getting better and better.

Chris Petree:

Yeah, and I would answer like when has it become more focused or more in the forefront? For me, I would say where the switch really flipped was probably somewhere right around the recession 0708 that things became more clear and the advocacy needed to be growing as we were all fighting for the little bit of funding. But I think the advent of asset management and other things that was also around the same time that it started to become more. I think all those things the GASB reporting requirements, that are, financial officers and public agencies, like all of that kind of combined for this perfect storm that really made I think our profession have to be stronger advocates for their agencies, their communities or their clients or whatever it might be.

Mitch Hoeft:

I think it really paints a more clear picture for all of us. Right, the challenges that we have not just in Minnesota but across our country. We get a lot of work to do, right, and then with that asset management software we can start to quantify and calculate how much is that going to cost?

Marc Culver:

What do taxes have to do in the future, yeah, and then actually and talk more intelligently and with more data about that too, right?

Mitch Hoeft:

And try and create the culture of not being such a responsive society. 35w Bridge fell right. How many years ago was that? It?

Marc Culver:

was 2007. So, 16 years ago.

Mitch Hoeft:

And since then you see new bridges. You had one in Hastings and they start to. We start to focus on certain things, but I think that's our mission, and if we're not going to do it, who is right? But make sure that everybody understands like we do have this out there and we do need to start to take care of it and we're not going to take that bite off in one year, two year, 10 years. But we got to start working towards that and we got to start making sure the general population understands that need so that when these things come in front of these politicians they're comfortable supporting it.

Jupe Hale:

It certainly helps to have background with the asset management and whatnot Rating systems, whether it be bridges or water systems, leaks, whatever it is that we can point to and say, see, this is technically evaluated and there is a need here, versus to see that bridge needs to be fixed. Having that data that we've been conscious about, putting together across the board all of our assets and then identifying the ones within that that are in need of the most attention, that's very helpful in selling those that control the purse strings.

Marc Culver:

And I could go on and talk for hours about that side of it, the legislative side, and the advocacy and things like that. And one thing that has become clear is I think we are doing a much better job of that as public works professionals, whether that's through APWA or city engineer association or even ASE or ASEC and all these other organizations that are all trying to do the same thing, and I think the legislators are finally listening and we've established those relationships so that hopefully they are coming to us and asking us some questions or when we come to the table to testify, we have some credibility and they know us, we know them and hopefully that helps. No, it doesn't mean that the floodgates are wide open on the funding, but I think it has helped.

Mitch Hoeft:

It seems like it's more of a nonpartisan issue now. Both sides can come to that table and feel good about supporting them. I think that's the best place we can be Right.

Marc Culver:

All right. So again, I could go on and talk about legislative stuff and funding and all that for hours.

Chris Petree:

And I think now, Mark, would be a good time for me to excuse myself I don't know if this is your first ever person.

Marc Culver:

That's cute.

Chris Petree:

Yeah, this would be the person that's cute, so I apologize for that, but I will gracefully excuse myself and thank you for having me.

Marc Culver:

Yeah Well, thanks for joining us. Thank you, chris. Hey, everyone, I just want to take a quick moment to thank our sponsor, bolton Mink, who is producing and editing our podcast.

Bolton & Menk:

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Marc Culver:

I kind of want to go back to your conferences and we touched a little bit on the fact that right now this will be the second year at Mystic Lake for your fall conference. But maybe just talk about how you got there. I think both city engineers and APWA had their big conference events at the Earl Brown Conference Center in Brooklyn Park and those of you that are listening in other parts of the US or even the world don't know and don't care with Earl Brown Center us, but it was a cute little place but we were outgrowing it. But just kind of talk about how you got to Mystic Lake and how you feel about that and what's the attendance of your conference and things like that. And I think and talk about the, just talk about everything about it. But like the exhibit hall, I think is just awesome getting everybody there and vendors and things like that too.

Jupe Hale:

Sure, and I'll let you guys talk to you. But I just Mark mentioned I was on the conference planning committee of the chair before I became an officer for many years as well, so witness firsthand all the evolution. Earl Brown Center was a good central location for us for many years, kind of kept it in attendance at about 415, maybe 475 somewhere in that in terms of being able to feed everybody Right and then capturing all the different sessions and breakouts, and so we exceeded that for that 475 number for about five plus years or more Just bursting at the seams there Maybe exceeded some fire code. No, no, we would never do that.

Nick Egger:

No player go back.

Jupe Hale:

That's on them really.

Marc Culver:

Exactly, they're their problem.

Jupe Hale:

A little cramped for space in a lot of ways, particularly when it became to sort of, once you're outside of the general sessions in the foyer, space became very cramped and also we have a number of chapter sponsors and other equipment vendors that like to have exhibit space and we were turning people away because the space was just too small for that. So look to spend a number of years looking at different venues and went back and forth, had trouble for a while because the leap from the next step was from 500 was to go to 1200 at some of the bigger facilities and that was not a leap but we were going to either pay for or be able to absorb. Mystic Lake came an option for us. We're now up, probably getting close to. If you include folks that are attending the award ceremonies family members and other staff members, council members and things that go along we probably get upwards of 600 plus people now at the conference. From membership standpoint, we probably get about 525 or 30, which is over about a half. Our members which is really good capture we think so happy about that opened up a bigger exhibit hall so now we can take all of our chapter sponsors that want to exhibit this part of their sponsorship Plus we've added I don't know, we probably get 8 to 10 to 12 non members but vendors and things that want to have a booth at our conference, including agencies that want to recruit members or talk about what they do from the men dots and met councils and things like that. So that gave us that opportunity as well. So we're happy about it. It's a lot of centralized but it's a really good fit size wise for us. We're a lot more condensed. The thing about the old place was that kind of spread out. You had to walk quite a ways to get to one place. You want to go to this session or that or back to the exhibitors. You're back and forth for quite a ways. Now it's a lot more condensed. The foyer is a lot more welcoming and larger, has some small tabletop conferencing areas, and so I had a lot of pluses for us or happy about that, I don't know what you guys think for you.

Mitch Hoeft:

For me is tough. I loved Earl Brown, I mean cozy in the winter. Some of those rooms are really, you know, warm. Some of them were very cold as well.

Marc Culver:

Was there any warm place?

Mitch Hoeft:

Oh, wait yeah, how many layers?

Marc Culver:

How many squares Could you?

Nick Egger:

wear. You learned over the years you'd have to layer up. Nope, that conference is coming. I'm going to get the rack full of warm clothes because you're going to need it.

Marc Culver:

the draft but it was cute.

Mitch Hoeft:

It was cute, I mean the feed was good.

Jupe Hale:

And historic. It is historic.

Mitch Hoeft:

I always remember I can associate it to the metrodome. For those who were in there walking, you know, to get a beer, go to the bathroom, we would always have to make the walk from one end to the other to get to dinner and it's you're tired, right, and you're slogging through trying to get to the lunch line. It felt like the kind of walking around the metrodome a little bit, but I don't know. I think for the chapter is hard to give it up because there's a lot of history there, a lot of good memories. We talked earlier about the bowling event we had after there and you know some of the good times that everybody's willing to donate the evening to the group. For me it was tough. Now we're in a big, brand new, nice, very nice facility. So the space is there. We continue to grow our sponsorships every year. I don't know if we know the total number of sponsors we have, but it seems like every year we're adding five. So we have a space big enough to give everybody room to display their company and how they support public works. So that's been a huge benefit.

Nick Egger:

Yeah, and on that, just sponsor-wise, that's really seen a big escalation in interest the last handful of years two, three years maybe where we were traditionally or regularly in that low 30s maybe for total sponsors and it's well over 40 each in the last two years. So that's huge. That just means our reach and our ability to leverage the additional members that come out of that and the contributions they can make To the organization. It makes it that much more powerful for us. So it's been a huge benefit.

Mitch Hoeft:

I mean Nick and I were on the membership and events committee. I remember all those phone calls we would have to make to urge people to continue to renew their sponsorship. It's kind of went away. Yeah, you kind of send out the email now and getting some great interest. So I mean thanks to those sponsors. For sure that really supports what we do.

Marc Culver:

And then how about the spring conference, like kind of what's the goal of the spring conference? And remember, anybody can listen to this.

Monica Heil:

The goal of the spring conference is to provide a retreat where you can reflect on the profession and get ready for the construction.

Marc Culver:

Wow, that sounds. Does that on a pamphlet somewhere? It should be.

Monica Heil:

It's rigorous and the scenery just really allows you to focus on all things public works. But I think there was at one point an interest in finding an outstate location so that not everything we do in the chapter is so metrocentric. Now, does it help that it's in a very nice part of the northern portion of the state? Absolutely, but the educational content is a little more developmental. I'd say we have more of a project focus when it comes to the fall conference, and so it really is an opportunity to think more about yourself as a professional. We have speakers that talk about leadership, and last spring we had a phenomenal speaker that came in and talked about workforce development, because I don't huge issue doesn't matter where you work public, private, public works, engineering it's an issue, and so those types of conversations that get you thinking a little bit differently and then also maybe get you thinking about solutions are what you see at the spring conference.

Jupe Hale:

And I get a little back a little bit to the roots of the spring conference. Back before we were also connected. We could all get our emails on our phones and everything anywhere in the world. That was a place where you kind of get away from that and sort of focus, more introspective focus, a little more focus discussion about where they're among the leaders in the industry, where things are without having to deal with their day to day kind of stuff. That's a good point. Yeah, so that's the roots of it and I think we still get that. I don't think you're nice people. I think people tend to put that stuff away and as much as they can.

Marc Culver:

We just sit about like a cell phone jammer up there or something.

Monica Heil:

Or collect cell phones at the door.

Jupe Hale:

Everyone of their teenagers. If everyone, I didn't immediately just continue my tenure as vice president. I'll take away the cell phones and people will be it.

Nick Egger:

You'll get your own claims.

Monica Heil:

You'll be celebrated.

Jupe Hale:

You'll be named an award after you, yeah, and then also if I also another way to do, that is to say, it's not going to be up there in central Minnesota and that'll terminate my tenure there Well so that's where the roots were. That's where I think people enjoy that. I still think we get, as Monica said, we get some higher level, broader topics, more about managing the industry where we're doing as a whole workforce issues whether it's diversity, an inclusion type of topics, generational differences in employees, younger members coming in those kinds of topics really draw that level of participant and I think that's a good setting for that. So I think we're happy with that. That does.

Mitch Hoeft:

It's a more intimate group. What is our 150 people maybe give or take, 200 now, 200 now, so we get 600 at the fall. So much smaller group, more intimate. I mean. To me it's always been that relationships right, a lot of people out after the conference getting together, getting to know each other, creating those relationships you've talked about. When things hit the fan in your job, you got a person you can call and trust and know that they're going to drop everything and take care of you. And that's where it's been huge. For me is more so above and beyond the technical content, but just that personal relationship and where that's taken us all and everybody within our chapter.

Marc Culver:

Well, good, good. I think that's a great description of that, and I love Jup's tie-in to probably how that was started. As far as getting away, I wish we could do that again, but we love and we hate technology.

Jupe Hale:

Expectations are what they are. Well, you know you have it. You have to use it Exactly.

Marc Culver:

So I think you mentioned you have 11 committees, was it? I think we're in the teens, the mid-teens somewhere. So I mean, I don't know, maybe if you can name all 15 or 16, right off the top of your head, great, but like what? So what are they?

Nick Egger:

Jup's got a cheat sheet over there. He's got to look at it right now.

Mitch Hoeft:

We actually do have most of them. It's the gender problem.

Jupe Hale:

We have meeting, okay, so let's see.

Monica Heil:

You can change the order and put conference.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, yeah, in order of importance.

Jupe Hale:

Well, the best one's the conference planning committee.

Marc Culver:

Of course Always yes.

Jupe Hale:

We talked about that, we talked about the government affairs committee, we have history committee, so they kind of bring back some former members or past. They were responsible for the 75th anniversary celebration.

Nick Egger:

Great product placement, by the way.

Mitch Hoeft:

Ty well done.

Nick Egger:

You were on all cylinders of that today the branding.

Jupe Hale:

Diversity, equity and inclusion committee, a membership committee when they charge of these events that you talked about them and just sort of fosters membership technical tours as well, but some of the fun stuff too, where we can establish those connections. They're really good at that Education and training huge committee for us. They put all kinds of programs on over the fall and in the spring and really do a nice job and their reports every month are long because they have so much stuff going on. They're busy. Lots of opportunities, right, we have an out state committee always trying to get to less Twin Cities centric. Our chapter is the entire state so we're trying to always foster that. It's always difficult when you got traveling and lodging and all those things to do, so they're trying to overcome those hurdles. Public awareness, which is different than government awareness, and that they show up at the state fair, for example, and have a booth to talk about what public works does and they have some STEM events at schools and those kinds of things. So advocating, not on a political level but on a grassroots level for what we do, asset management as well separate subcommittee environment and sustainability communications handles, our website and the things we send out of conduct, interviews, things like that. And then I think the last one is young professionals, which has been involved in quite a bit, but a lot of our profession is not young. Yeah, but we need to continue to have.

Marc Culver:

I just want to put it in there Jupe.

Jupe Hale:

Yeah, I can look in the mirror when I say this, but continue to support the next generation, if you will, not? A good community extends down to student chapters, things like that. So those are. That's my list for you.

Mitch Hoeft:

That's gonna hit. I mean, the student chapter piece was huge. The reason I got involved 15 years ago was just that right it's. The chapter maybe felt like they're getting old and they weren't stagnating the young people into public works careers. I know even going to the University of Minnesota we weren't talking a lot about public works type of jobs. We were talking about you're going to go build that stadium and you're going to go do this. Well, the amount of jobs out there were very small. So we had a focus to engage the youth, make sure they understand what our chapter does, and a few of us joined together to create. I think at that time it was the largest student chapter in the country and now we've paired that into a handful of others around Minnesota and some of the colleges. So been really fun to see that grow. This meeting we just had there was a few of our first presidents from that student chapter and to watch them climb their careers and to see where APWA has taken them is. I mean that's been the perk for me and just the opportunity that it's provided so that near and dear near and dear.

Nick Egger:

I echo all of that because I was part of that group too that helped initiate it. It's really it's become much more than I think we ever imagined it would be, and seeing that pipeline now very steady flow from the college ranks and the programs in the state, come into our professional organization and have the excitement and energy to participate and contribute to me, and that's exactly what we're looking for to Duke's point, to just ensure that we're always keeping the next generation in mind and given them opportunities to be involved with it.

Jupe Hale:

You give us a gift back to workforce, obviously.

Nick Egger:

Yeah.

Jupe Hale:

To me. Well, if you train as civil engineers, we all know you can take a number of paths. One of them is public works, and we need to advocate for those, those leading engineers, to take that path and sell them on what's good about it.

Mitch Hoeft:

So well, this has happened right around the time of the recession too, right. So some of us were losing jobs and there wasn't an opportunity for I know I was coming out of school there and I think there was like three jobs available in the whole metro area and one of them that I applied for. There's 120 applicants just for that one job. So we were losing people in the field to going to different places waiter, waitresses, business people and we were looking at that, knowing that there was going to be a long term need. But if we can't capture these people, how are we going to get them back? So I think it was good awareness by the local chapter at that point to see that that and to attack it before it's too late.

Marc Culver:

Anything else to say about any other committees.

Monica Heil:

They all do a lot of work.

Marc Culver:

Well said.

Monica Heil:

Monica. Yes we all work hard, but I think the part about this that's so interesting is these committees really do a lot without a ton of direction. And when we talk to some of these other chapters that are wanting to start some of these initiatives, you get the sense that there's one or two people at the executive level that's telling everybody else how to do things, and it's the complete opposite. Here We've got this wonderful group of professionals that come up with their own ideas that align with our strategic plan, that say, hey, we want to do this. And so you look at all the great things and there's very little that's coming from the top to say this is how we're going to execute. It's all coming up and that's how, again, all these people are getting opportunities to become leaders themselves, which is just so great for the industry and for the chapter as a whole. And so it's all volunteer hours. Everybody's doing this on their own time and it's because they love what they do and they love the group of people they work with.

Jupe Hale:

And you see it in a couple of ways. So we do strategic planning in December every year.

Marc Culver:

And, by the way, I think that deserves a spotlight right there you guys actually do make the concerted effort to do strategic planning every year as a part of this and I want to touch on that a little bit more the strategic plan that you have and what's in there, and blah blah, blah. But finish your thought.

Jupe Hale:

Well, and I was just going to say we see what Monica's talking about at that time, because it's not the leaders saying, okay, here's what we should accomplish. There's committees are tasked with showing us what your plan is for your committee for the following year and they come up with great stuff. So we see it there where we really just react to those things as opposed to proposing them, and very easy to align with them. Typically they're not running off on them. They mean about of like mind and what needs to be done, so that you see it there. And then you see it in the budgeting process where fiscal year runs from July to June. So come April, may, we're talking about next year's budget and we get the request start coming in hey, we'd like to use some resources to do this, and here's our plan for that. We get, you know, these kinds of. So you always see this sort of upward flow of ideas and things, that where we just react to it in one of those two ways. It's really good to see we don't have to do a lot of, you know, braining around that stuff. Those committees are, have taken ownership of that and run with it. Yeah, that's great.

Marc Culver:

So let's, let's take that step back and talk about your strategic plan and I think it's, I think it's great that you guys have that and you have it out on your website but maybe talk about what's on that strategic plan and what's important to you guys. What are your priorities?

Jupe Hale:

I'm going to give this to Monica. Yeah, I printed out for this. Thank you, I did some homework too, thank you, yeah, and those will be I downloaded that already.

Marc Culver:

I did a little homework too, so those will be on the show notes when we drop this episode next week.

Monica Heil:

So yeah, yeah, so we do have a set of strategic priorities on our website, and we were talking just prior to this about some of the priority changes that National has made this year with their update of their strategic plan, and so I think there will be an evaluation on our part. You know, are we aligned? Do we need to change our goals and our initiatives slightly to align with with what National has? And I think we do. What we have right now for our current strategic priorities talks about the value of public works. So advocacy right there, the voice of public works, the voice of public works again advocacy and then membership and education has been a huge focus. Workforce development is rising to the top at the national level. We've talked about it at our chapter level as well, and so I think we'll see some retooling as a part of our strategic planning here to to more align with what National has and evolve our priorities to the demands of the industry. And I think we've done a really, a really good job with our strategic priorities and actually executing. That's another thing that differentiates the Minnesota chapter from other chapters is the goals that we set are not just there for show. You do see the execution taking place, not just at the executive level or an individual committee, but in each of our committees. They are working to implement, maybe not all, but some or multiple initiatives for the chapter, and so it's a, it's a guide. How do we want to utilize our volunteer hours? Well, this is what we should be doing, and our budgets same thing. Does this align from a budgetary standpoint? So it's like any agency or firm necessary, if you're going to pull everybody in the same direction, you've got to have a plan.

Jupe Hale:

I would add to that too. I think anything we spend budget or man hours on we all think is the right thing to do when we're all aligned in that sense. But tying it to the strategic plan, I think, is another step we should take, and we've done that some by. I think we're going to be stronger about doing that. Like you advocate. You want this budget item, you want this to be your initiative on your committee. Tell us how it aligns with our strategic plan or national strategic plan, which I'd roughly the same thing, but there's some differences there and be good to have them. At least think that way and then say that. And then we're all thinking, yes, we support that because it supports what we're doing.

Marc Culver:

I wrote down workforce development. I think that's probably a future podcast episode for the public works nerds here. I'm not sure who I would have as my guest there. Who are the experts going to be on workforce development? We'll figure that out. But I think it's great that you guys are taking that on and maybe I don't know if you have some examples or some background on what you guys are doing, what you're focusing on, but it's I think it's so important in our industry because every agency is struggling with that right now Finding good candidates to apply for jobs, finding diverse candidates to apply for jobs and it's not a problem that each agency can solve on their own. It really needs the industry to solve this problem. To get into the high schools, get into the colleges and tell kids, hey, go to this community school or this tech school and get certified in this program, or you don't need to get a college degree and this is a great profession to get into. But maybe talk about what efforts you've done. I mean just in a couple of minutes, quick and, like I said, we'll get more in depth in a future episode.

Monica Heil:

But I think multiple committees have taken this and tried to get out and advertise, if you will, what we do as a profession at the high school level even, and so our Diversity, equity and Inclusion Committee had participated in a number of career fairs that the Minneapolis Public Schools were putting on. Our Education and Training Committee has participated in career fairs. Our Public Awareness Committee we're out at the state fair every year with an exhibit trying to educate the general public about what public works is, and it's kind of fun, so you bring kids in and start getting them interested, but it's gone. We've done the college thing. We are very effective, I think, in the student chapter, and now we're even starting to think younger than that. How do we get people interested? And for years we've been talking about is there a way for us to partner with the Science Museum of Minnesota to create an exhibit that focuses on public works? And that's a pretty lofty financial goal for us as a chapter to be able to contribute. But when we talked about strategic priorities and trying to teach people about the value of public works, that's something that's been on our radar for an extended period of time. So some of these goals and the execution of the goals are very short term and immediate, but we've got long term goals as well.

Mitch Hoeft:

That's a great idea and just hitting them at every level, like you say, right, all the way down to the Science Museum, children's Museum, state Fair. Those are probably the easiest group younger kids, construction equipment. Who doesn't love dump trucks and diggers?

Jupe Hale:

And, as my boy would say, I know maybe think of this too. A lot of our efforts have been we have scholarships too, by the way, for engineering students, also technical schools but a lot of our focus has been on younger engineers and those kinds of folks in the profession. Where we're trying to grow it is in the non-engineering level, more the operator or supervisor level too, which is a little harder one to hit. But I think we've grown in that area as well, with kind of still growing our internship, kind of keeping track of all the internships that are out there, trying to get a more diverse intern to fill those spots plus fill them with as well as training engineers as well, and we've tried to get them exposure as a summer job or a summer opportunity there to kind of expose to the industry and those things. So that's still growing. But we have made some strides in placement, internship placements and things like that we facilitate quite a few municipal internships through the chapter website. Definitely, and we leverage our private partners there too, because there are a number of firms that have started those types of programs as well on their own, and so I think we probably need to coordinate that with ours too, so that we can make sure our scope is as broad as we can get it.

Mitch Hoeft:

That's probably one different thing with our chapter. We're pretty engineer centric in our membership of APWA, whereas other states might be more operator centric. And that's the cool part is getting all those ideas right and having a platform for operators, maintenance workers, whoever it may be to share those ideas make us better. So I think that's a big focus of our chapter too is making sure that we're open to that and providing opportunities across the board to varying different people working in the industry. Great point.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, wow, we are at the tail end of the podcast here and I'm just kind of thinking here what should the last question be? And I guess maybe we'll just maybe go around the table and I expect a lot of your answers will be the same, but I just you know, what has APWA meant to you? How has it helped your career to start with you?

Jupe Hale:

I just want to start with me. What has it meant? Well, it really got me into a lot of meeting a lot of different people. I was, like, first moved to Minnesota, I was worked for a consulting firm and so it got to know clients and things like that. But it wasn't until I got into APWA and started becoming active. And that's one thing I want to point out too is just being a member is great, we like that. But if you really want to get the most out of it, you got to be active. And so I got involved in the conference planning committee working towards a goal that goes on the strategic plan or something. And so I got involved in the conference planning committee and that really just got me behind the scenes, met a whole new group of people, really broadened out what thinking, how we think about the chapter as a whole. So that's the benefit I saw was it exposed me to some connection to some people and I got quite a bit out of that conference planning committee and continue to get out of my role now.

Monica Heil:

I'll echo the people aspect of it, but I'll try to give a different answer and that that's leadership opportunities. I think when you join a volunteer organization and you can contribute, you start working in a manner that might be different than the way you work in your day job. If you're a project engineer or if you're a utilities maintenance worker and you're just doing what you're told. You get an opportunity to get involved on a volunteer organization and make some decisions about how you want to do things. That gives you some of the experiences necessary to become a leader and, with all the committees and the opportunities we have for people to get involved, I think a lot of leaders can be developed within an organization like APWA.

Marc Culver:

Great point, Great answer. Monica, Nick top that.

Nick Egger:

Top that Everything they just said and I've said this on the past episode here because I'm a two-time attendee I was encouraged to get involved with it and I kind of hymned and hawed about what am I going to do? You know, I'm a green engineer. I don't know a lot of people, what could I possibly contribute? And for a while that's kind of how it was. You just have to absorb what you're going through. But then sooner or later you get asked to help out with a specific thing and get more involved and it just kind of has the snowballing effect of opportunities for you. All the leadership stuff, the meeting people those are 100 percent great benefits. But getting to do a lot of different things that are unlike your day job too. You're part of planning a conference. I mean, who comes out of college going into their career thinking they're going to be involved with something like that? It just doesn't occur to you. Or setting up these cool tours or social events stuff. That's outside of the box or the realm that you think you're going to live in in your day-to-day. That's been extremely fun and rewarding and enjoyable. But yeah, I mean, I would have never guessed that jumping into it all those years ago would lead me to becoming the president of the organization someday. That never crossed my mind at all. So you never know where it's going to take you, and more often than not it's going to take you to some pretty great places.

Mitch Hoeft:

You see a consistent trend People. I don't even know what to say. I mean, that's me too. It's people, relationships, network. I had a very good opportunity 15 years ago my boss was the president at that time and she kind of grabbed me and said, hey, you're going, you're talking, you're meeting these people and the opportunities it's provided for me is just endless. And, above and beyond that, really Friendships. Yeah, I kind of went in as a young college kid and who I'm never going to get along with these engineers. They're really smart and they're not very fun and as we get into our career, it's what we do, right, we work too much when we're not working. We're doing a special event for APWA and the friendship piece I think has been huge and to get to know people on that level and their families. For me that's been everything. It's that networking piece.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, oh, that's great, thank you, and I would I get a chance to answer too and I would echo everything that you guys have said. And, just like Mitch, like you said, the connections of friendships and I think that hearkens back to what Jupe kind of said at the beginning of the podcast is, you know, just being able to call somebody when you come across something at work or you know what, maybe it's outside of work too, and having those relationships and knowing that person's going to pick the call up and they're going to help you out, you know, and that's just, it's just great and it makes all of us better. It makes our industry better and makes us be a better public servants, whether we're working for a public agency or not. So, all right, well, thank you, this has been awesome. It's been a lot of fun. I really appreciate it. I was a little nervous about having so many people, but you guys did a great job. You know we're probably about an hour and five minutes or so, but hey, we break that down per person. That's less than 15 minutes per person. So peace of the so. Good job everybody. And thank you. And one last thing before we go if you have enjoyed this episode and the podcast in general. We ask that you help us spread the word. If you're on LinkedIn like it, comment on the post and spread the word. And we are on YouTube. So everybody was aware of that. Everybody dressed nice jupe and Mitch even coordinated today. So that's, that's good. But, yeah, check us out on YouTube, check us out on LinkedIn, check us out on Twitter and other places and, most importantly, tell your colleagues about the podcast. Thank you, thank you, thanks, mark Nerds out.

Minnesota Chapter of APWA
National Organization and Local Chapters Relationship
Advocacy in Public Works Legislation
Conference Locations
Student Chapters in Public Works
Aligning Strategic Priorities and Workforce Development
The Benefits of Volunteering and Networking