LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Working together on tasks, whether administrative or physical, builds credibility. Credibility builds trust, and trust encourages the sharing of knowledge and experience,” stated Joe McGowan, retired Director of Public Works (City of Cranbrook) and network builder in the local government setting (February 2022)

Note to Reader:

Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate. The edition published on February 1, 2022 featured an article contributed by Joe McGowan, retired Director of Public Works (City of Cranbrook), and network builder in the local government setting.

A Public Works Visionary and Leader

“Joe McGowan has a career record of public works service, leadership, and accomplishment at four scales – local, provincial, national, and cross-border. He is a visionary who takes an idea, brings together and motivates peers to build a network, and guides the idea to implementation through a collaborative process,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“Within the BC public works realm, three of his many contributions over the past three decades are the Environmental Operator Certification Program (EOCP); the web-based Training Registry now known as EOCP’s ‘CRM’ – Customer Relations Manager; and the In-House Peer-to-Peer Operator Training Program (P2P) for the East and West Kootenays regions.”

“As EOCP President (1992 -2006), for example, Joe McGowan guided a loosely defined volunteer water and wastewater operator certification body from a position of debt, no office or location to store files, and no provincial standing, to a respected organization prescribed in Provincial Health and Environment legislation with an office, Executive Director, two support employees, and a substantial cash reserve.”

“Joe McGowan has distilled his career experience down to a set of five lessons learned. These also serve as guiding principles, and hence an operational framework, that would help BC local governments achieve the provincial vision for Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery. This easy to remember phrase synthesizes three themes – financial accountability, infrastructure sustainability, service delivery.”

Joe McGowan’s Lessons Learned in Public Works 

PRINCIPLE 1 – Bylaws, policies, and directives do not get things done; good people given good information, support, and the opportunity to succeed at a task get things done.

PRINCIPLE 2 – Proper project definition and design often allows project completion by in-house personnel, sometimes with oversight by specialty contractors or suppliers on select project components.

PRINCIPLE 3 – Involvement of in-house personnel on complex challenges builds staff capabilities, increases confidence, and results in empowered staff that are better able to identify problems and initiate cost-effective utility specific solutions without use of outside consultants and contractors.

PRINCIPLE 4 – Local government employees who understand the overall Vision of a project or program will work to overcome the inevitable challenges that present with any change.  The priority of every leader is to clearly communicate so that affected parties fully understand and appreciate what is proposed and the nature of how the desired outcome is to be achieved.

PRINCIPLE 5 – Proper Public Works operation and maintenance decisions cannot be made in the absence of a detailed infrastructure asset inventory and condition assessment.  This data base combined with knowledge of varied options to replace infrastructure enables decisions to be made on how to mitigate problems, and extend asset lifespan prior to the need to replace infrastructure.


To read the complete story published on February 1st 2022, download a PDF copy of Living Water Smart in British Columbia: A Network Allows People to Move Out of Workplace Silos.