Public Works Officers Institute

March 23 — 25, 2022

Monterey, CA

Save the Date!

Designed for public works professionals of all career levels, this conference provides you with the essential information and updates necessary to most effectively run your cities. Now, more than ever, the opportunity for city officials to learn from and network with each other provides invaluable support.

Please see our event and meeting policies.

Explore Previous Institutes

2021 Institute Session Descriptions

Monday, March 15

Opening General Session

9-10:30 a.m. 

Cal Cities Public Works Department: President’s Welcome

Opening remarks: Rene Guerrero, Director of Public Works, Pomona

Embracing the Transportation Revolution

Public works directors know the transportation sector is poised to undergo dramatic and publicly apparent changes in the future. Two converging trends – autonomous driving and the electrification of vehicles – will spur cascading cycles of innovation with significant implications for city streets, urban parking capacity, and freeway infrastructure. In this session, Patrick Schwerdtfeger, technology futurist, will highlight US and Chinese companies leading the charge, the likely deployment trajectory, and how California cities can position themselves ahead of the curve. He will also discuss how pilot programs and proofs of concept will lead to incremental regulatory approvals, unleashing enormous private investment, bring in high-paying jobs, and augment tax revenues for leading cities. An initial presentation will be followed by Q&A from attendees.

Speaker: Patrick Schwerdtfeger, Technology Futurist, Trend Mastery, Inc.


Virtual Sponsor Showcase

11 a.m.-12:00 p.m

Premium and Elite level sponsors are anxious to meet F2F to discuss the how’s and the why’s your city needs their business expertise. Cal Cities sponsors cover a wide array of products and services that offer exceptional business expertise in all facets of public works and engineering departments. Look for prizes and games during the sponsor Q&A sessions!


Project Labor Agreements for Local Public Works Projects

1-2:15 p.m. 

Project Labor Agreements, once limited to mega projects, are increasingly being used on routine, local projects. Why is that, and what are the advantages and downsides? This session will provide the basic legal background on PLA’s, including enabling legislation and history, what they do and don’t do, legal pros and cons, and how their use has changed over time. Two of the state’s leading PLA experts, Julian Gross and Ardis Graham, will detail their experience with the implementation of PLA’s, including the impact on the bidding process and management/ cost of their projects.

Moderator: Keith Cooke, Engineering & Transportation Director, San Leandro

Speakers: Kirsten "Kurry" Foley, Administrative Services Manager, San Leandro Engineering and Transportation Department | Ardis Graham, Founder and Principal, Workforce Integrity & Training Solutions, LLC. | Julian Gross, Partner, Renne Public Law Group


Public Contracting Requirements: Emergency Preparedness and Federal and State Reimbursement

2:45-4 p.m.

How can Public Works Departments prepare for emergencies? This session covers contracting best practices and procedures to have in place before a disaster, what to have during the event, and what must happen immediately after to move forward and quickly to address your community’s needs. Laws, regulations and executive orders have specific requirements for procuring services to restore a destroyed area and your agency needs to be eligible for disaster reimbursements from FEMA or the State. The presenters will explain the ins and outs, including possible pre- and post-procurement best practices to receive reimbursement for your agency’s disaster related expenditures including tips learned from responding to recent large-scale fires and COVID-19.

Moderator: Jason Nutt, Assistant City Manager, Santa Rosa

Speaker: Richard D. Pio Roda, Principal, Meyers Nave

Wednesday, March 17

Coffee With Colleagues

8:30-9:15 a.m.

Join the Department Officers and members of the Public Works Department for an informal conversation with colleagues before the conference begins for the day.

Facilitator: Meghan McKelvey, Manager, Department and Member Services, League of California Cities



CONCURRENT SESSIONS: Variety Speed Sessions

9:30-10:30 a.m.

Three topics will be presented lasting 20 minutes each.

Moderator: Paz Gomez, Deputy City Manager, Public Works, Carlsbad



Be the Change: How to Modernize Your Government

Learn how Benicia, CA is creating groundswell support for digital transformation across its government by accelerating the move to virtual services and a customer-focused mindset with permitting, licensing, and code enforcement.

Speaker: Brad Misner, Community Development Director, Benicia



Stormwater and Health: California’s Trash Amendments and Tobacco Product Waste

California jurisdictions face dual problems from tobacco use in our communities: the public health burden of tobacco-caused disease and the considerable cleanup costs for tobacco product waste. In 2015, California established the first-in-the-nation Trash Amendments, requiring all municipalities to keep trash >5mm in size out of stormwater. Discover how this requirement enables bold policies in tobacco control that protect both public health and stormwater management budgets.

Speaker: Hudson Kingston, Staff Attorney, Public Health Law Center



Jumping Over the Counter: Retired Public Works Director to Consultant

By 2023, an anticipated three-in-ten public employees will be eligible for retirement. Rather than embracing a life of leisure, many retired civil servants recognize their unique positioning and choose to join consultancy firms for a “second career.” While this decision can benefit both the retiree and those they work for, the transition from public to private isn’t always an easy one. Join Steve Kahn, as he shares the trials and triumphs of transitioning from 24 years of public service into the private sector. Find out how to make things a little smoother if you’re considering a “second career” after retirement.

Speaker: Steve Kahn, Civil Senior Principal Engineer, Cannon



CONCURRENT SESSIONS: Legal Topics Speed Sessions

9:30-10:30 a.m.

Two legal topics will be presented lasting 20 minutes each with time for Q&A.

Moderator: Ben Fine, Director of Public Works/City Engineer, Pismo Beach



Huckey v. Temecula: The “New” Trivial Defect Rule for Public Sidewalks

In Huckey v. City of Temecula (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 1092, the Court of Appeal held that sidewalk slab elevation changes measuring up to one and one-half inches are generally trivial defects. This was the first case in more than 4 decades to discuss the trivial defect rule in the context of sidewalk slab elevations. The decision is extremely favorable to public entities because it doubled the “3/4 inch rule” set forth in the prior decision of Fielder v. City of Glendale (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 719. This session will explain the Huckey decision, and will offer practical guidance on how to address sidewalk slab elevations in light of that decision.

Speaker: Robert Ceccon, Shareholder, Richards, Watson & Gershon



The Basics of Design Immunity: Creating a Paper Trail

The session will explain the basics of design immunity, and how city staff can paper a file such that lawyers can successfully assert the defense. The session will use the real life example of how Ventura County successfully used the design immunity defense to avoid liability in a case where a landslide killed 10 people, and damaged 27 houses.

Speaker: Robert Ceccon, Shareholder, Richards, Watson & Gershon



Homelessness: Moving Beyond Streets and Parks

11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Over half a million people go homeless on a single night in the United States. Almost half of all unsheltered homeless people are in the State of California, on our city and county streets, and in places not intended for human habitation. But, beyond places like sidewalks, parks, cars, and abandoned buildings, homeless are also finding refuge in flood control channels and river systems. How are these encampments being handled? What can be done to prevent such encampments? What legal constraints and operational solutions are available? Attend and hear about these situations in our cities and counties, what is being done, and get ideas to take back to your community.

Moderator: Rene Guerrero, Director of Public Works, Pomona

Speaker: Mark Austin, Attorney (Partner), Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP | Joan Cox, Partner, Burke Williams & Sorensen



Legislative Update

2:30-3:30 p.m.

Join Cal Cities legislative representatives for a look at previous, current, and upcoming legislative items affecting the public works industry and profession.


Speakers: Caroline Cirrincione, Legislative Policy Analyst, League of California Cities | Derek Dolfie, Legislative Representative, League of California Cities.

Friday, March 19

What’s Driving Transportation Choices?

9:30-10:45 a.m. 

Public Transportation, rideshare and freight services have experienced tremendous ups and downs over the past year. In this session we will examine new research conducted which gives a glimpse on what the future might hold for a more equitable and cleaner transportation systems. In this session, we will explore the most pressing issues plaguing California communities and will share the latest developments in research and technologies to help public works professionals address them.

Moderator: Karalee Browne, Director, Institute for Local Government

Speakers: Matt Barth, Professor of Engineering, UC Riverside Research and Technology | Daniel Sperling, Distinguished Professor and Founding Director, Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis


Closing General Session Lunch & Learn: What Public Works Professionals Need To Know About Municipal Finance


12-1:15 p.m. 

Learn the latest hot topics in municipal public works’ financing in California and the latest on state and local transportation funding. Geared towards public works professionals, you’ll learn the rules and trends in taxes, fees and other revenues; the relationship with the state budget, and problems and prospects for reform. Explore tools and new ideas for funding infrastructure, operations and maintenance, and get answers to the most pressing fiscal issues facing public works.

Moderator : Rene Guerrero, Director of Public Works, Pomona

Speaker: Michael Coleman, CalCities Fiscal Policy Advisor,


2021 Institute Session Materials


2021 Virtual Institute Access for Registered Attendees

In addition to access to all live sessions, session materials, and virtual networking opportunities, registering for the conference grants you access to all session recordings for later viewing for a limited time. View the session recordings.


Previous Institute Session Materials

2020 Session Materials
2019 Session Materials

Speaker Center

In the Speaker Center, you can find resources for all speaker-related details including deadlines, audiovisual requests, presentation submission directions, panelist agreements, and key event contacts. 

Agreements and Presentation Submissions
Below are key presenter deadlines and a link to the Speakers Agreement. Please read and complete the required fields to acknowledge your acceptance of the League of California Cities’ presenter guidelines. Providing your digital signature allows Cal Cities to move forward in planning and promoting your session, as well as publish your name and affiliation on our website and in marketing materials. Your contact information will remain strictly confidential.

Should you have any questions, please contact the education department.

Important deadlines 

Today: Complete the Speakers Agreement and note any specific audiovisual requests. Speaker Agreements must be submitted no later than December 17

March 1: Register for the conference and book a hotel room

November - February: Please plan to hold at least one conference call with all of the panelists to ensure each speaker is comfortable with their responsibilities during the session.

March 14: Submit your final presentation to Cal Cities via the presentation submission page.

Presentation Guidelines

Our goal is to provide exceptional educational experiences, networking opportunities, and innovative tools that will make attendees and their cities more successful. Studies show that adults learn best when they are actively involved in the process rather than passively listening or watching. Most seminar attendees are knowledgeable about the subject, and therefore are interested in hearing what others know and what their experiences have been. Accordingly, we urge you to plan your presentation with these suggestions in mind.

The most common complaints on session evaluations from prior seminars are:

  • "The presentation was a 'sales' pitch for a particular product or service."
  • "I couldn't read the slides."
  • "One speaker took so much time that the others were not able to give their full presentations."
  • "I'd like more practical knowledge."

Please consider the following as you prepare for your presentation:

  • Relevant content for experienced audiences that stretches thinking and provides new approaches.
  • Content that is delivered in an engaging way and draws on the experience of the attendees.
  • Examples and case studies of real success (and successful failures).
  • Try to add stories, anecdotes, testimonials, or demonstrations that emphasize your point. We all remember a good story, and thus more easily the lesson with it.
  • Provide tools and information that the audience can implement.
  • If there are other speakers in your session, coordinate with them in advance to decide your speaking order and ensure that all presentations fit into the assigned time allotment. If you do not have the contact information for your co-presenters, please contact us at
  • Selling from the podium creates conflict of interest problems. Education sessions at the Public Works Officers Institute should never be an advertisement. Therefore, presentations may not include any commercialism for specific products or consulting services.

Submitting Your Session Materials

Presentation materials are an important element of Cal Cities educational programs. Please submit your presentation in either a Microsoft-friendly format or as a .pdf file no later than Monday, March 14. Session materials can be submitted through our website starting in early January. It is Cal Cities' goal to make a positive impact on the environment by integrating environmental considerations into all seminars.

Some things to keep in mind are:

  • When naming your session materials, please use your session title. For example: "YourSessionTitle"
  • If your session group has created multiple presentations, please combine all presentations into one document before submitting to us, in the order the presenters are speaking.

Please contact the education department with any questions, concerns, or assistance needs you may have.

Submit your presentation here - Available soon!

Session Layout and Structure

The League of California Cities encourages our presenters to use the most engaging and educational platform possible when speaking at the Public Works Officers Institute. We recognize that each session has a unique format and presentation style based on the preferences of the speaker(s) and content being presented, but the following three examples are provided as a general guideline in planning your session.

Panel Discussions: 75 minutes, with up to 3 speakers

Presider (5 minutes)     

  • Welcome
  • Frame session
  • Introduce speakers

Speaker(s) #1, #2 and #3 (20 minutes)   

  • Summary of relevant experience
  • Learning objectives
  • Core session content
  • Summary of key points

Presider (10 minutes)   

  • Facilitate Q&A
  • Final comments

Concurrent Session: 75 minutes, 1 speaker

Presider (5 minutes)     

  • Welcome
  • Frame session
  • Introduce speaker

Speaker #1 (60 minutes)            

  • Summary of relevant experience
  • Learning objectives
  • Core session content
  • Summary of key points

Presider (10 minutes)   

  • Facilitate Q&A
  • Final comments

Speed Sessions: 20 minutes

Speaker #1 (15 minutes)            

  • Self-Introduction
  • Frame session
  • Fun and engaging presentation

Final Thoughts (5 minutes)        

  • Facilitate Q&A
  • Final comments

As a reminder, sessions may not include any product/service demonstrations or commercial presentations for specific products or consulting services. Please contact the education department with any questions, concerns or assistance needs you may have.