The American Public Works Association (APWA) serves professionals in all aspects of public works—a fact that sets it apart from other organizations and makes it an effective voice of public works throughout North America. With a worldwide membership over 28,500 strong, APWA includes not only personnel from local, county, state/province, and federal agencies, but also private sector personnel who supply products and services to those professionals. Membership in APWA is open to any individual, agency, or corporation with an interest in public works and infrastructure issues. Titles common to the membership include public works directors; city engineers; city managers; fleet managers; property and equipment superintendents; utilities managers; community development directors; transportation managers; park directors; county officials; and representatives from engineering and other consulting firms, manufacturers, construction companies, and a multitude of other service providers.
Although originally chartered in the United States in 1937, APWA has roots in two predecessor groups that reach back to 1894, and has 63 chapters in North America, which includes eight chapters in Canada. The Canadian Public Works Association (CPWA) or Association Canadienne des Travaux Publics, was founded in 1986, and is governed by an 8-member Board of Directors (one representative from each chapter in Canada). Members of CPWA are automatically members of APWA. A 17-member Board of Directors, all of whom are elected by Association members, governs APWA as a whole.
As a comprehensive public works resource, APWA continues in its rich tradition of making a difference both on an individual and professional level. APWA is a not-for-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization that prides itself on its ability to provide varied educational and networking opportunities that help public works personnel to grow in their professionalism and directly impact the quality of life in all the communities they serve.
From the very beginning, the American Public Works Association has had the diversity that characterizes it today. APWA is the result of the merger of two predecessor organizations, the American Society of Municipal Engineers (AME), which was formed in 1894, and the International Association of Public Works Officials (IAPWO), primarily comprised of non-engineers who were engaged in public works management and service delivery. The majority of the Society’s members were consultants, design engineers, construction supervisors, and water works directors.
Recognizing that other associations had established headquarters in Chicago and had obtained financial assistance in developing their programs to become self-sufficient, in 1934, AME and IAPWO agreed to work toward a joint organization. After creating a very successful Joint Public Works Congress where the two organizations could meet together, AME and IAPWO decided to merge. Funding was secured, and on January 1, 1937, the American Public Works Association was formed.
APWA has witnessed extensive growth, accomplishment, turmoil and transition. It has been a strong leader in many areas, including education, history and research, to name only a few. Over the years APWA has conducted scores of research projects and published many research reports that were regarded as significant contributions to the field of public works.
Special interest groups within public works were accommodated through the development of the Institutes for Professional Development (now known as technical committees), as well as through the introduction of specialty conferences such as the North American Snow Conference. Other special groups of note included the Council on Emergency Management, the Council on Equal Opportunity (now the diversity committee), the Public Works Historical Society, MicroPAVER, Management Practices and the Management Practices Accreditation Council.
APWA has demonstrated its commitment to strong international linkages by its support of the Canadian Public Works Association, and through the continual strengthening of relationships with public works officials in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and the Czech and Slovak Republic.
Motivated by the wish to upgrade office facilities and make visible and substantial changes in the organization, APWA headquarters was relocated to Kansas City in 1993. As public works services become more complex and the skills required to deliver them become more diverse, APWA continues to position itself to respond to these changes and the needs they identify. Building on our tradition of service to the public works profession, we will meet the challenges of being THE comprehensive public works resource in the 21st Century.