Curt Spannraft

Name: Howard Lazarus PE, PWLF
Title: Public Works Director
Where: City of Austin, Texas
Population: 821,000
What: 700 employees maintain 7,800 lane-miles of roads; inspect and repair bridges; plan and implement bicycle, pedestrian, and child safety programs; and support three other city agencies.
Operating budget: $80 million
Capital budget: $2.5 billion

Our July 2013 cover story provides one example of how the City of Austin has established a reputation for being progressive.

“The things that make municipal government different than the private sector are the ability to work with the community and influence the workforce,” says Public Works Director Howard Lazarus. “Having a direct relationship with the community you serve makes it rewarding and enjoyable.”

Austin is one of six cities chosen to participate in a two-year fellowship to help find ways to improve bicycle infrastructure through the Bikes Belong Foundation’s Green Lane Project. Public works department employees are learning and sharing on an international level, making the city an example of best practices and thoughtful planning.

Lazarus’ $85 million accelerated reconstruction program improved pavement conditions to 80% “satisfactory or better” ratings five years ahead of schedule.

He also implemented an initiative that encourages neighborhood groups to work with the city on small-scale community interest projects.

He is proudest of having created a workplace of choice within the city, one where “employees are engaged and committed to the work that they do.” In fact, the department scores higher-than-average for all measurements in the city’s annual workforce survey.

“Public works improved the system for training street and bridge employees so they’re encouraged to pursue education,” says Austin National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Nelson Linder. “Employees will have resources provided for them to pursue their GED or certification in areas that might enhance job performance.”