APWA names its ‘Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year’

Updated Sep 15, 2018
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The American Public Works Association (APWA) has announced its “2018 Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year.”

This year marks the 58th anniversary of the Top Ten Leaders Awards, which is one of the most coveted and prestigious awards presented by APWA.

“The Top Ten Public Works Leaders Award aims to inspire excellence and dedication in public service by recognizing the outstanding career service achievements of individual public works professionals and officials,” says APWA Executive Director Scott Grayson.

“Since its inception in 1960, the Top Ten Leaders award program has recognized 580 men and women who reflect the highest career standards of professional conduct for public works officials,” he says. “The APWA Top Ten represents the best of the public works profession, and they are all to be highly commended on this honor.”

The winners are recognized for their accomplishments in federal, state, provincial, county or municipal engineering or administration including career advancement, contribution to technology or job knowledge, commitment to the profession as evidenced by education, training, certification or registration and continuing education, as well as professional excellence and service to the community in large and small municipalities.

Here’s some of the information provided by APWA on the 2018 Top Ten Public Works Leaders:


Richard “Chip” Barrett, PWLF, Superintendent of Highways, Town of Westford, Massachusetts

Richard “Chip” BarrettRichard “Chip” Barrett

Richard “Chip” Barrett is the superintendent of highways in the Town of Westford, Massachusetts. A lifelong resident of the community he serves, Barrett’s 39 years in public service include roles as a heavy equipment operator/truck driver for the Highway Department, on-call firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Westford Fire Department, patrol officer for the Westford Police Department, two-term elected member of the Board of Water Commissioners, and his current position as superintendent of highways in Westford. Barrett has been instrumental in creating equipment-sharing protocols, providing guidance on the necessary equipment such as generators, cell phone trailers, Active Vehicle Barrier systems for pedestrian protection, light towers, two-way radios, programmable message boards, wood chipper. He also helped develop a sustainable funding mechanism.

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Through Barrett’s leadership and involvement, equipment is available to communities that would not otherwise be able to afford or obtain it soon enough to meet the needs of planned events like marathons, protests, or parades, as well as unexpected events like storms or terrorist attacks.

As part of his responsibilities, Barrett maintains approximately 75 vehicles and equipment with a replacement value of more than $7 million. With that level of responsibility, he remains focused on budget-optimizing purchases and equipment that can multi-task, such as public works vehicles outfitted with police radios.


Richard A. Fosse, P.E., Faculty, University of Iowa College of Engineering, Iowa City, Iowa

Richard A. FosseRichard A. Fosse

Richard A. Fosse serves as a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University College of Engineering. His focus areas include leadership, project management, capstone design, Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam preparation, resilient infrastructure, and emergency response.

Prior to joining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2015, Fosse served the City of Iowa City in several capacities, including as public works director from 2003 through 2014. During his first year at the university, Fosse was given the opportunity to develop his own course. He chose to create a class focusing on the concepts of resilient cities with specific emphasis on the role of infrastructure and the built environment. The class also teaches students how to develop vulnerability assessments and hazard mitigation plans, as well as how to implement specific mitigation strategies. The class has proven to be very popular, with enrollment increasing 55 percent in the second year and another 25 percent in the third year.

As part of his project management class, Fosse prepares students for the FE licensing exam. The total pass rate for 2017 was 92 percent and, in particular, the spring 2017 graduating class posted an impressive 100 percent pass rate. The national pass rate for this exam was 69 percent. No civil engineering program in the nation can boast a better result.


Mike Frisbie, P.E., City Engineer/Director of Transportation & Capital Improvements Department, City of San Antonio, Texas

Mike FrisbieMike Frisbie

Mike Frisbie joined the San Antonio in September 2007. As city engineer and director of transportation and capital improvement, he leads a team 850 employees who focus on transportation planning and the design, construction, maintenance and operation of streets, drainage, and capital projects. He has managed the successful development and delivery of more than 290 projects worth over $1 billion in the city’s bond program.

When he arrived in San Antonio, Frisbie oversaw the newly created 200-employee Capital Improvements Management Services (CIMS) Department, formed to manage the $550 million, 150-project, 2007-2012 Bond Program. After delivering the 2007-2012 bond program, voters approved the 2012-2017 Bond Program, allocating $596 million for the 140 projects. In the past six years, the city has managed $2 billion worth of infrastructure improvements.

In 2014, CIMS combined with the Department of Public Works to form Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI), which was placed under Frisbie’s leadership. The consolidation brought 865 employees together to focus on transportation planning and the design, construction, maintenance and operations of streets, drainage, transportation and capital projects.

Frisbie also oversees the Transportation and Infrastructure Management Center, which monitors the operation of the city’s 1,400 traffic signals and optimizes the timings of all traffic signals on a five-year rotating schedule to decrease traffic congestion.

Frisbie has been instrumental in the development of San Antonio’s SA Tomorrow Multi-Modal Strategic Plan and Vision Zero Traffic Safety initiative.



Samuel A. (Sam) May, PWLF, City Manager, City of Margate, Florida

Samuel MaySamuel May

Samuel “Sam” May has served as city manager for the City of Margate since January 2017.

The department of more than 630 employees serves an area of nine square miles and a population of nearly 57,000.

May is responsible for the administration and management of the city with a full-service police department, fire department, utility department (including water and wastewater treatment), public works, parks and recreation, building department, and annual operating and capital expenditures of more than $120 million. He is also responsible for maintaining 14 miles of canals within the city. May continues to play a vital role in his position as city manager in the day-to-day operations of the Public Works Department, a department he had led as director for eight years.

May initiated the city’s successful partnership with the Better Buildings Challenge with the Department of Energy (DOE). The City of Margate was recognized as a partner to help improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s buildings, plants and homes by 20 percent in ten years. As May says, “We are proud of the progress we’ve made since we’ve joined the Better Business Challenge. Since joining the Challenge, the city has accelerated our plans and implemented new strategies to be more energy efficient. I’m confident we will achieve our goal by the end of the Challenge.” Margate is the second city in the state of Florida to participate and be recognized by DOE as a partner.

May created a Sustainability Matrix that would enable the city and other entities to network ideas and best practices to ultimately help the city achieve its sustainability goals and to benchmark against others’ and set new goals. The sustainability database is a viable tool that is constantly evolving and will be continuously updated as new practices emerge. The matrix is the one that May created and was adopted by Broward County.


Robert Mitchard, Public Works Director, Village of Algonquin, Illinois

Robert MitchardRobert Mitchard

Robert Mitchard has been public works director for the Village of Algonquin Illinois since 1995. His responsibilities include water production, treatment, pumping, storage, and distribution system management; sanitary sewer system management.

Mitchard and his team were key players in the planning and engineering review of the Phase 1 widening of Algonquin Road from a two-lane rural cross-section highway to a four-lane divided highway. The two-lane section was a bottleneck to traffic headed to the expanding communities of Lake-in-the-Hills and Huntley to the west.

Mitchard worked closely with engineers from the McHenry County Department of Transportation to plan public relations, maintenance of traffic and environmental impacts of this major undertaking. Construction went smoothly, finished ahead of schedule, with minimal delays for roadway users. Today, the road serves the area well, respects the beauty and rural nature of the community, and its wide-landscaped medians provide a safe, comfortable and attractive driving experience for motorists.


Nan Newlon, P.E., Director of Public Works, Village of Downers Grove, Illinois 

Nan NewlonNan Newlon

As public works director  for the Village of Downers Grove, Illinois, Nan Newlon provides community leadership and policy recommendations related to infrastructure investment and service delivery; develops and implements the village’s annual capital budget of $20 million; actively participates in strategic plan development and implementation; manages a department with seven divisions (Administration, Engineering, Water, Fleet, Forestry, Drainage, and Streets/Traffic) and an annual operating budget of $15 million; manages public works’ response to extreme weather events; and serves as a member of an interdepartmental emergency response team.

When Newlon began her tenure in Downers Grove, one of the first projects she spearheaded was the completion of a pavement condition assessment for every street in Downers Grove.

This assessment was a critical step in telling the story of the physical condition of the streets in Downers Grove and identifying the financial resources that would be needed to maintain them at an optimum level. Newlon’s approach to gathering data and presenting it in a clear, understandable manner to citizens, Village management, and elected officials is reflected in the village’s commitment of financial resources and improved infrastructure. Newlon and her team continue to implement roadway improvement projects reducing the percent of the Village streets’ unmaintained condition from 22 percent to 1 percent in just six years. Newlon’s leadership at the Village of Downers Grove has extended to multiple modes of transportation, which make a positive impact on the residents and businesses in town on a daily basis.


James W. Patteson, P.E., Director, Fairfax County DPW & Environmental Services, Fairfax, Virginia

James PattesonJames Patteson

As Director of Public Work and Environmental Services (DPWES) for Fairfax County, Virginia,  James Patteson leads more than 900 staff members in a large, complex department with an annual operating budget over $300 million and a capital improvement program in excess of $3 billion

DPWES includes four distinct business areas: Stormwater Management; Wastewater Management; Solid Waste Management; and Capital Facilities Planning and Development. Key responsibilities include planning, designing, building, and maintaining all county-owned infrastructure (roads, trails, wastewater and stormwater utilities, bus shelters, and solid waste and transportation facilities); operating and running a 3,400-mile wastewater collection system and a 40-million-gallon-per-day treatment plant; and managing the county’s stormwater program and maintaining natural and manmade stormwater.

Under Patteson’s leadership, DPWES ensures continued readiness for emergency response and is a first responder to the community. The department is actively involved in mitigation and response and recovery efforts for natural and man-made disasters. Departmental plans are developed, practiced, and utilized for flood response, snow clearing, damage assessment, and debris management. Activation of these plans has been instrumental in the response and recovery to major events such as Snowmaggedon, Snowzilla, and Tropical Storms Lee and Hannah which significantly impacted the county.

In 2016, the county launched Fairfax First, an initiative designed to make the land development review process faster, more consistent, and more predictable. Patteson was a key leader in this effort.


Larry Schneider, Streets Superintendent, City of Fort Collins, Colorado

Larry SchneiderLarry Schneider

Larry Schneider has been with the City of Fort Collins for more than 35 years

As streets superintendent, he coordinates activities of  the streets department with other city departments as needed in order to sustain or enhance service levels to the public; develops short-term and long-range plans based on the goals and growth objectives of the department; negotiates and resolves significant and controversial issues; develops and implements goals and objectives as well as policies and procedures; oversees work activities of supervisors to ensure compliance with established policies, procedures, regulations, government laws, city ordinances or codes; and provides leadership for snow operations and emergency management.

Schneider developed a comprehensive “Snow and Ice Control Policy Book” approved by the Fort Collins City Council.

This handbook guides responsibilities and ensures planned and orderly snow and ice removal operations. It provides policies for snow operations, outlines snow-fighting technologies and strategies, and provides in-depth snowplow route information for snow crew supervisors and plow operators.

This handbook also helps educate citizens about the complexities and challenges of snow operations and educates on the efforts to minimize adverse impacts to the environment.

In an effort to evaluate and reduce the impacts of snow operations on the environment, Schneider works directly with the Colorado State University Water Center to monitor deicing chemicals on urban stream quality in terms of chloride concentrations and its impacts on aquatic life.


Josh Watkins, P.E., Water Utility Manager, City of Redding, California

Josh WatkinsJosh Watkins

As Water Utility Manager for the City of Redding, Calif., Josh Watkins leads the Water Division of the Public Works Department, which employs 32 people and has an annual budget of $20 million. The Water Division is responsible for providing water service to more than 90,000 people in the Redding area.

The water system infrastructure includes two water treatment plants, 17 groundwater wells, 555 miles of conveyance and distribution pipelines, 10 pump stations, seven pressure zones, and 12 reservoirs providing a total of 33.5 million gallons of storage. In 2015, the city water system had an average of 29,022 connections and average daily demand was approximately 18.9 million gallons per day, with maximum-day demand of 41.6 million gallons.

Watkins led a year-long effort to revise and update the city’s construction standards. He coordinated with multiple city divisions to identify old/outdated standards and clearly depict the new construction practices. He was also tasked with getting the new information to the technicians who redrew the standards in CAD and quality control to ensure that a note changed on one standard was not erroneously left on a related page.

As the largest city north of Sacramento and surrounded by rural counties, Redding’s Construction Standards are adopted and used by many smaller cities. With the update, Watkins included a detailed list of changes to help the other users know exactly what changed on each page.



Paul Q. Woodard, P.E., Director of Public Works, City of Janesville, Wisconsin

Paul Q. WoodardPaul Q. Woodard

Paul Woodard began his career as a Junior civil engineer for the California Department of Transportation in District 5 in San Luis Obispo. His first municipal position was as assistant village engineer for the Village of Glencoe, Illinois, in 1985. In 1990, he accepted a position with the City of Fitchburg as director of public works/city engineer. In 2014, he became public works director in Janesville, Wiscons

When he started with Janesville in 2014, only six miles of road were being repaved per year. With a network of 330 miles, that would have required a pavement life cycle of 55 years, which was not realistic. Working with the City Council, this program was increased to nine miles in 2015 and 12 miles in 2016. That reduces the pavement life cycle to 28 years. Because of state levy limits, a referendum had to be held for the increased funding. This referendum failed even though the community had been asking for increased road repairs. Woodard’s recommendation to the council, which was approved, was to increase borrowing and to increase the wheel tax from $10 to $20 per vehicle.

With the decision to increase the amount of street mileage being repaired every year, Woodard required the engineering division to not only inspect the manholes and inlets, but the pipe as well. From this effort, many locations of gas services protruding into the pipe were discovered. With the increased storm sewer work from the expanded Janesville street program, significant increases were needed to fund the necessary work. Taking a more conservative approach and recognizing these expenses will be an ongoing expense, Woodard recommended the work be funded through the annual budget and not borrowed.


The American Public Works Association (www.apwa.net) is a not-for-profit, international organization of more than 30,000 members involved in the field of public works. It’s headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri.