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More than 5,780 public works professionals gathered in Atlanta, Ga., to learn about state-of-the-art management techniques and see millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment, vehicles, tools and services. Spread across more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, the American Public Works Association's (APWA) 2004 International Public Works Congress and Exposition, held September 12-15 in Atlanta, was one of the largest public works exhibitions held in the last decade.

Over 450 exhibitors at the Georgia World Congress Center drew crowds offering up-close looks and hands-on inspections of gigantic pieces of earth-pushing, snow-removing and road-building equipment used by public works departments throughout the world. Demonstrations of the latest techniques in peering inside a sewer system, providing clean water, managing public fleets and buildings and using the World Wide Web as a management tool were also offered.

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More than 150 technical, professional and educational sessions were held with topics ranging from how to be an effective advocate for public works to community outreach strategies. It was obvious by the most popular choices that public works professionals are aware of the need to practice state-of-the-art management techniques; to be outspoken advocates for investment in infrastructure; and to know and use the latest computer technology.

Tom Trice, deputy city manager for the City of Royal Oak, Mich., became the new APWA president during the Opening General Session on September 12. Trice accepted the presidential gavel from 2003-2004 APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk, engineering manager, Walton International Group, Inc., Edmonton, Alberta.

Presenting the keynote address at the Opening General Session was Dr. Glenn Singleman and his wife, Heather Swan. Singleman, an Australian who is a world-record-holding extreme sportsman, medical doctor, professional adventurer and internationally-acclaimed documentary filmmaker, made world headlines in 1992 when he jumped (with a parachute) from the Great Trango Tower (20,000 feet) in Pakistan. BASEClimb — the film he made about the adventure — screened in 127 countries to over 200 million people. Critically and popularly acclaimed, the film won 21 international awards, set new standards in its category and became National Geographic's top-selling adventure documentary.

Between 2000 and 2002, Singleman trained his wife, Heather Swan, to climb so she could attempt to jump from the world's highest cliff. Swan, a corporate executive and mother of two who “had never been camping outside a caravan park,” committed herself to one of the most extreme personal quests imaginable: to climb and jump the highest cliff in the world.

“I heard Glenn say over 100 times that ‘anyone who could stand on a chair, jump off and land upright has the physical ability to jump from the highest cliff in the world — the only things holding us back are mental barriers,’” Swan said. So when Singleman was told about a cliff higher than the one he jumped, it was Swan who said, “Here's a chance to prove your theory — train me and together we'll climb and jump from this new cliff and you can make BASEClimb 2.” Thus began a three-year-long journey that at one point nearly cost Swan her life (due to an incorrectly-attached harness while bungee jumping in New Zealand) but taught her about the strength of the human spirit — “an extraordinary strength in all of us that only shows itself in extraordinary circumstances,” she said.

The footage of their jumps — particularly Singleman's from the Great Trango Tower — was consistently fascinating. Many in the audience could relate to the powerful metaphors represented by their adventures — overcoming fear, pursuing our dreams, and achieving the impossible.

The educational sessions at Congress ranged from administrative management to information systems to personal enrichment to traffic operations — virtually every subject in the field of public works was covered. Attendees had over 150 educational sessions, Super Sessions, roundtable discussion groups and pre-Congress Workshops from which to choose.

Wednesday evening, September 15, was the final conference event when hundreds of attendees gathered at the Centennial Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. “I would ask that everyone here tonight think about your career and how you got to where you are,” President Trice said at the end of his speech at the banquet. “Thank those that helped you and do everything you can to help those that will be our future leaders.”

Next year's APWA Congress will take place September 11-14, 2005, in Minneapolis, Minn.

FUTURE CONGRESS DATES

  • September 12 - 15, 2004
    Atlanta, Ga.
  • September 11 - 14, 2005
    Minneapolis, Minn.
  • September 10 - 13, 2006
    New Orleans, La.
  • September 9 - 12, 2007
    San Antonio, Texas
  • September 14 - 17, 2008
    Indianapolis, Ind.
  • September 13 - 16, 2009
    Columbus, Ohio

FUTURE SNOW SHOW DATES

The host cities have been chosen for upcoming APWA North American Snow Conferences:

  • April 17 - 20, 2005
    Kansas City, Mo.
  • April 30 - May 3, 2006
    Peoria, Ill.

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