GREEN Paul Oberdorfer, city of Green’s director of public service, was recently designated a national Public Works Leadership Fellow (PWLF) by the American Public Works Association (APWA).
He received the APWA senior designation in recognition of the highest level of commitment to the public works profession. The goal is to mentor other public works professionals in three of the APWA leadership and management professional development programs including Public Works Executive, Public Works Manager and Public Works Supervisor.
To be accepted into the program, a candidate must have at least 20 years of relevant public works experience. Each PWLF will provide at least 40 hours of mentoring each year to develop capstone projects or plan for the execution of the personalized professional development plan.
Oberdorfer is mentoring Laurie Van Fossen, who works for the city of Jupiter, Fla. He speaks with her once a week on the phone and offers tips and advice. Van Fossen has steps to go through, which will eventually allow her to be qualified to take over when her supervisor steps down. Oberdorfer looks at the work she is doing and looks for areas that can be improved.
"I had so many great people mentors over the years," Oberdorfer said. "I had great people to help me along the way."
Oberdorfer said the program is a great way to build knowledge of public works and develop leadership skills. He said the way leadership is done has changed some since the 1970s when it was more command and control, which doesn’t work well with newer generations. He said it is important to develop relationships with employees, give them the right tools and help motivate them to get the most done.
Oberdorfer has a 24-year career in public service as he began at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) before coming to the city of Green. Currently, he leads a department of four divisions with 48 staff members and an $81 million budget.
During his time at ODOT, he advanced from Drafting Technician to Project Inspector and then to Transportation Technician Specialist and Facility Manager for District Four in Akron. He earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in General Management at Malone University and an Associates in Applied Science in Drafting Technology at the University of Akron.
He said he was happy to find an opportunity to pass on some of his skills to someone else.
"To give back is an important thing," Oberdorfer said.