Public Works Officers Institute

March 13-15, 2024

Portola Hotel at Monterey Bay

2 Portola Plaza, Monterey, CA

Designed for public works professionals of all career levels, this conference provides you with the essential information and updates necessary to most effectively run city and county public works departments. Now, more than ever, the opportunity for city and county officials to learn from and network with each other provides invaluable support. Sessions cover a variety of topics such as road safety, bridge programs, legislative updates, and leadership topics.

For registration questions, please contact Registrar, Megan Dunn.

For sponsorship questions, please contact the Associate Manager, Event Sponsorship & Exposition Sales Amy Wade.

For additional questions, please contact the Associate Manager, Event Program Katie Pebler.

Please see our event and meeting policies.

Institute Information

Explore Previous Institutes

2023 Institute Session Descriptions

View the 2023 Public Works Officers Institute program.

Wednesday, March 8

Cal Cities Registration Open


10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Exhibit Hall Open (Wednesday only)

10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Lunch On Your Own

11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Opening General Session

1:00-2:30 p.m.

Cal Cities/CEAC President’s Welcome

Brian Balbas, President, County Engineers Association of California and Public Works Director/Chief Engineer, Contra Costa County

Benjamin A. Fine, P.E., President, Cal Cities Public Works Officers Department and Director of Public Works/City Engineer, Pismo Beach

Opening Keynote: Leading Change by Changing the Way We Lead

As a leader, you get better by change, not chance. The world of work has changed and continues to change. Blue-collar workers are more often recognized as the backbone of local government. What are the skills needed to lead this important group? How can managers create a purpose-filled vision that instills passion, drives  performance, and produces collective success? 

Learn the skills and habits of 21st Century leaders by attending this session designed to make you laugh, learn, and leave with new mindsets and skill sets. You’ll also find out workplace cold hard facts, why managers fail to get better, and how to ignite your public works team members through engagement, encouragement, and empowerment. Lastly, you’ll understand how to develop your “positivity” reflex and utilize it in the future, long after the presentation. 

Ron Williams, Vice President of Personal Services Plus, LLC

Ron Williams, the “Leadership Whisperer,” is an internationally recognized speaker and trainer with more than forty years of experience in the public and private sectors. His insights on 21st-century leadership, employee engagement, and executive coaching make him one of the nation’s leading resources in understanding organizational and individual success and achievement. Ron has held many high-profile positions in his career, including as Chief of Staff for the District of Columbia’s Human Resources Department and General Manager of the Western Region for Nike. Ron created the Corporate Diversity department at Nike and was Nike’s Director of Training and Development. Ron has also worked with many federal government agencies helping them to develop programs to optimize their human capital. 

Visit with Exhibitors

2:30-2:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

2:45-4:00 p.m.

Public Construction and Contracting Law Update for California

Discover the case studies, public project contractor negotiation, and best practices that can safeguard your community from disputed agreements and potential litigation. These disagreements often result from legislative and regulatory changes in California public construction and contracting law that impact cities and counties. 

Moderator and Speaker:
Deirdre Joan Cox, Partner, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP

Maxwell Blum, Partner, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP


Becoming Part of the Conversation: Increasing Public Works' Public Perception

Public works departments play a significant role in making everyday life as safe and convenient as possible for everyone. By helping the community understand our work, we can generate goodwill, gain compliance with new regulations, and keep the public safe. This panel discussion will focus on how research, planning, implementation, and evaluation can inform effective public education strategies when communicating major infrastructure projects, newly enacted state laws like SB 1383 (the organics mandate), and inspire calls to action related to natural disasters like floods, wildfires, and earthquakes.

Julie Hagen, Deputy Public Works Director, County of Santa Barbara

Maurice Chaney, Public Information Officer, Roseville
Lael Wageneck, Public Information Officer, Santa Barbara County Public Works

Visit with Exhibitors

4:00-4:15 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

4:15-5:30 p.m. 

Public Input that Works: Strategies for Successful Community Engagement 

The public’s increasing desire to have their say about everything from road designs to rate structures, environmental programs and more has posed new challenges for public works professionals. Learn how to meet new expectations for community engagement without giving up control or compromising your technical expertise. This session will provide real-life case study examples of how to engage the right people at the right time on the right decisions, plus some painful lessons from public engagement gone terribly wrong. In the end, participants will leave feeling more empowered, confident, and prepared when asked to “engage the public.”

Moderator and Speaker:
Kristina Ray, Communication & Engagement Director, Carlsbad

Carmen Kasner, Southwest Operations Director, Ardurra

Effective Pavement Program Management for Cities and Counties

Agencies throughout California utilize pavement management systems to monitor existing pavement conditions. A successful program integrates the existing pavement condition with a toolbox of various treatments for different pavement needs. The session will also briefly provide an overview of the importance of pavement compaction and an overview of the roles of contractors and agency representatives to maximize the performance of the pavement. Panelists will offer insight and best practices drawn from many years of research into effective pavement program management.  Lastly, receive an update on the latest activities and initiatives sponsored by the City County Pavement Improvement Center (CCPIC) followed by an engaging discussion with the audience on local agency pavement management issues. 

Matt Randall, Road Maintenance Division Manager, Placer County DPW

John Harvey, Professor, Director, City and County Pavement Improvement Center, UC Davis
Erik Updyke, Specialist, City and County Pavement Improvement Center


Drought and Potable Reuse on California's Central Coast  

A combination of drought and population growth has overstressed California’s water supply infrastructure. The California Central Coast is now implementing multiple advanced treated recycled water projects to create a new and sustainable water supply. These projects represent pinnacle engineering efforts to secure sustainable water for our communities, with each project injecting the purified water into their respective groundwater basins for storage and protection against seawater intrusion. Panelists will address the permitting, public support, financing, and engineering elements necessary to implement recycled water projects.

Justin Pickard, Project Manager, Water Systems Consulting

Gina Dorrington, General Manager, Ventura Water
Benjamin Fine, President, Public Works Officers Department and Director of Public Works/City Engineer, Pismo Beach
Andrew Salveson, Vice President, Carollo Engineers

Networking Reception

5:30-6:30 p.m.

Make new friends and catch up with old ones while enjoying delicious appetizers and tasty beverages during the evening networking reception. It's the perfect opportunity to form support networks within your profession.

Thursday, March 9

Cal Cities Registration Open

8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Joint Networking Breakfast

8:00–9:00 a.m.

General Session

9:00–10:30 a.m.

Cal Cities and CEAC President’s Welcome

Local Streets & Roads Awards

Brian Balbas, Public Works Director/Chief Engineer, Contra Costa County
Benjamin Fine, President, Public Works Officers Department and Director of Public Works/City Engineer, Pismo Beach

What Public Works Professionals Need to Know about Finance 

Learn the latest hot topics when it comes to California's municipal public works financing, including the latest on state and local transportation funding. Geared toward public works professionals, understand the rules and trends in taxes, fees, and other revenues; the relationship with the state budget, and problems and prospects for reform. Get answers to the most pressing fiscal issues facing public works.  

Michael Coleman,


10:30-10:45 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions

10:45 a.m.-noon

Project Labor Agreements for Local Public Works Projects

Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), once limited to mega projects, are 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 PLAs, including enabling legislation and history, what they do and don’t do, legal pros and cons, and how their use has changed over time. Leading PLA experts will detail their experience with the implementation of PLAs, including the impact on the bidding process, management, and cost of their projects.

Moderator and Speaker:
Jonanthan Holtzman, Parnter, Renne Public Law Group

Julian Gross, Principal, Law Office of Julian Gross
Sebrina Owens-Wilson, Regional Impact Program Manager, Metro

The Changing Landscape of Recycling: Local Market Development and Participation

The way we recycle in California is on the verge of drastic change. With the passage of several new landmark bills, California will need to recycle the old recycling system. Hear from experts on the latest in the recycling space and what your area needs to do to navigate the new recycling mandates.

Tom Koutroulis, Director, OC Waste & Recycling

Dr. David Crohn, Cooperative Extension Waste Management Specialist, Department of Environmental Sciences (Retired), University of California Cooperative Extension
Tim Goncharoff, President, TAG Consulting
Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director, National Stewardship Action Council

Extreme Hazards: Planning, Recovery and Resilience

Fire, flashflood, debris flows, extreme heat, and seismic hazards - this session builds off of instant polling feedback received at the 2022 Public Works Officers Institute and dives deeper into the current and future “extreme hazard” challenges facing California’s cities and counties. State and local leaders will share the latest lessons learned, and GIS resources: funding and technical assistance available for suburban, urban, and rural communities. Interactive polling will be used to jump-start conversations with your colleagues on overcoming the many hurdles (i.e.: documentation and contracting!) and cost-effective, realistic-to-implement ideas that you can take home to your team.

Sarah Rubin, Outreach and Engagement Advisor, CA Department of Conservation

Jeremy Lancaster, Supervising Engineering Geologist, California Geological Survey
Brian Olson, Senior Engineering Geologist, California Geological Survey
Jeff Pratt, Public Works Agency Director, Ventura County

Networking Luncheon

12:00-1:30 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

1:30-2:45 p.m.

State of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Over the next five years, the federal government is making significant funding available to states and localities to improve roads and bridges, water infrastructure, resilience, internet, and more. In this session, hear from lead state agencies on the status of the formula funding, where and how to best apply, and discuss best practices with other local governments about applying for competitive grants.

Paz Gomez, Deputy City Manager, Public Works, Carlsbad

Sean Maguire, Board Member, State Water Resources Control Board
Paul-Albert Marquez, Deputy District Director - Planning, Goods Movement, and Local Assistance, District 7, California Department of Transportation
Robert Osborn, Director, California Public Utilities Commission

Don't Throw Paving Dollars Out with the Trash

Do you have enough money for pavement maintenance? The statewide average Pavement Condition Index for local streets and roads is 66. This “at risk” condition indicates that current maintenance funds are insufficient. Hear how one California city successfully secured extra funding sources, and how you can adopt these financial saving practices in your community.

David Leamon, Public Works Director, Stanislaus County Public Works

Debaroti Ghosh, Pavement Engineer/Specialist, Nichols Consulting Engineers
Lisa Petersen, Public Works Director, Pacifica
Margot Yapp, President/CEO, Nichols Consulting Engineers

SB378 and New Innovations for the Deployment of Fiber Networks

The panel will focus on broadband deployment strategies and the use of innovative methodologies to install fiber networks more efficiently and with less impact on streets. Also highlighted will be potential cost savings, lighter environmental impacts (spoils, air quality, vehicle trip reductions, etc.), and maximizing investment dollars for community benefit.

Rochelle Swanson, Lead of CA State Policy & NorCal Government Affairs, Crown Castle

Ted Allen, City Engineer, Los Angeles, Bureau of Engineering
Daniel Schweizer, Director, Government Affairs, Crown Castle
Walter Tustin, Federal Funding Program Manager, Crown Castle Fiber LLC


2:45-3:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

3:00-4:15 p.m.

Case Study: Broadband Internet and Smart City Applications

Learn how the city of Placentia entered into a unique partnership to deliver fiber optic broadband internet access to every home and business in the city utilizing a new micro-trenching technique within the city's road right-of-way. The Placentia FiberCity® Project is a privately funded, $35 million investment in Placentia that will deliver high speed broadband access to every resident and business. This presentation will focus on the construction methods used to install the fiber system as well as how the city managed the contractor's efforts in delivering this city-wide project.

Marcus Bowman, Community Relations Manager, SiFi Networks

Luis Estevez, Deputy City Administrator, Placentia
Jordan Harris, Area Manager, SiFi Networks
Jean Miller, Area Manager, MidWest Region, SiFi Networks


Making Public Works an Attractive Option in a Changing Workplace

The current workplace looks different, the labor force has changed, and the job market is volatile. Public works organizations are facing new workforce challenges while the largest ever investment in infrastructure is happening. So, how do we find success in this divergent situation? It requires that public works leaders find creative means of retaining talent, recruiting in competitive markets, and inspiring the next generation to join our professions. 

Jason Drew, Principal, NCE

Joan Araujo, Director Central Services, Ventura County Public Works Department
Joshua Pack, Director of Public Works, County of Butte
Walter Rubalcava, Civil Engineer, County of Santa Barbara
Paul Valadao, Lecturer, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo


Going to the Well: Discussing Municipal Water Issues

As climate change continues to impact California’s water supply, hear from the State Water Board and local water utilities on challenges and successes in responding to this current drought and planning for improved water supply resiliency in future droughts.

Brian Balbas, Public Works Director/Chief Engineer, Contra Costa County

Jessica Bean, Assistant Deputy for Drought and Water Rights Modernization, State Water Resources Control Board
Elizabeth Lovsted, Water Resources Manager, San Diego County Water Authority
Peter Martin, Deputy Director Water Resources, Santa Rosa Water

Friday, March 10

Cal Cities Registration Open

8:00-10:00 a.m.

Cal Cities Breakfast

8:00–9:00 a.m.

General Session 

9:00–10:00 a.m.

Receive a legislative update curated for public works professionals leading California cities.


10:00–10:10 a.m.

Closing General Session

10:10-11:30 a.m.

Leading High Performance

Is your team known for consistently delivering on objectives? Do team members act as resources for each other? Does your team work well together, learn quickly and adapt easily to change? Effective delivery of Public Works services requires teamwork at all levels, and today’s Public Works environment requires teams to be more nimble, adaptable, and resilient than ever before. Whether you’re an experienced manager or new to the role, this session will help you unlock the full potential of your team. 

During this interactive, fast paced session, participants will: 1. leverage Six Sigma communication techniques to fuel efficiency and reduce or eliminate rework 2. learn to maximize the benefits of conflict (innovation, inclusion, and diversity of thought), while at the same time, preserving and strengthening relationships and 3. learn two powerful coaching strategies to fuel development for team members and capacity for leaders. 


11:30 a.m.




2023 Institute Session Materials


    Previous Institute Session Materials

      2022 Session Materials
      2021 Session Materials

      Call for Proposals

      Cal Cities is seeking thorough, thoughtful, and complete proposals that tell how your session can help elected city officials improve their communities, leadership abilities, and knowledge within their roles. Submissions from any individual, group, business, or organization on any topic are welcome. The call for proposals for the 2024 Public Works Officers Institute is open through August 17, 2023.

      We encourage you to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to share your ideas, knowledge, and expertise with this important audience! For questions, please contact Katie Pebler.

      General Information

      Who Can Submit

      Submissions, from any individual, group, business, or organization are welcome. Please remember that all sessions require a well-conceived presentation, good visuals, and a great deal of rehearsal!

      How It Works

      Only proposals submitted online through the proposal form will be considered. As there is a limit to the amount of words allowed within the title and description of each proposal, it may be helpful to draft the proposal in a word-processing program first, then paste the final version into the online form.

      Target Audience

      This educational event is designed to keep city and county public works directors up-to-date on issues of importance to them and their cities.


      All About Proposals

      Securing a spot on the program is highly competitive, with approximately 25 percent of proposals being accepted. You can increase your chances by preparing a thorough, thoughtful, and complete proposal that tells how your session would help city leaders and those who work within city governments to improve their careers and communities. When preparing your proposal consider the following elements:

      • Is the topic new and/or critical for city government?
      • Will it draw a wide audience?
      • Does the panel reflect the diversity of California cities (north/south, large/small, urban/rural)?
      • Is the panel gender balanced and demographically diverse?
      • Will the session appeal to an audience with various political affiliations?
      • Will this issue stimulate action and further important discussion?
      • How does the proposed session impact education and/or advocacy for city leaders?
      • Is the topic geared towards the average public works director?
      • Do you have at least 5 important takeaways?

      Tips for Successful Proposals

      • Think big
      • Vary the viewpoint
      • Pare down the panel
      • Speaker skills matter
      • Plan for a crowd
      • Try something new
      • Interact with the audience
      • Fill in the blanks
      • Quality counts 

      Types of Proposals

      More than 95 percent of each year's conference programming comes directly from the open call for proposals. Sessions may be scheduled as a general session or concurrent session at Cal Cities' discretion. Select one of the available formats listed below that best fits your topic and desired outcomes or propose an alternative session format.

      • Keynote Speaker
        Keynote speakers are high-profile and designed to bring everyone together for a general session / and may set the tone of the event. This format permits approximately 45-60 minutes of an engaging presentation by a single speaker. Depending on time restrictions, the presentation may be followed by approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers with the audience or a moderator. 
      • Panel Discussion

        Panels consist of a moderator and a maximum of three speakers who participate in a 60 minute engaging presentation and discussion followed by approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers.

      • Speed Sessions

        Fifteen minute bursts of information on one topic by one speaker followed by five (5) minutes of questions & answers. Typically, these engaging presentations are based on focused projects or personal experience.

      • Facilitated Group Discussion

        A 75 minute interactive conversation on a topic led by a single facilitator. You may include a maximum 15 minute presentation on which the issue/concern is framed and, then, guide a discussion among the attendees with prepared questions. At the conclusion of the discussion, the facilitator must spend time summarizing key findings, suggestions, and points. 

      • Alternative Format
        Be creative! If your session does not fit one of the above formats, this is your opportunity to propose something different. Please be sure to provide the time, room setup, and other important details. Alternative formats will be accommodated based on interest level, space, and set-up availability.
      Requirements, Review, and Policies

      Submission Requirements and Review

      Submissions will be reviewed by a program planning committee.

      Cal Cities reserves the right to modify accepted proposal session titles, descriptions, presenters or other elements as necessary to insure balance, quality and enhance marketability. If an originally accepted speaker cancels, the session may be disqualified. Additional speakers not included in the original proposal are not permitted to be added without review and approval.

      Successful Proposal Considerations

      The following criteria may be considered during the review of submissions:

      • Relevance - What are the practical applications of your ideas? Have you included reasoning and documentation to support your conclusions, recommendations and outcomes? Conference attendees prefer presentations focused on outcomes or results. Make the definition and background portions of your presentation brief. Highlight problems encountered, options available, choices made, documented pre- and post-change effects and lessons learned.
      • Content expands attendees' knowledge - Will your presentation expand knowledge beyond entry-level basics? Most conference participants are elected officials, appointed officials, and seasoned professionals. In general, direct your presentation to an intermediate or advanced audience.
      • Originality - Does your presentation advance existing ideas or present new ideas? Has this material been presented elsewhere? You might apply proven techniques to new problems or identify and apply new approaches, techniques or philosophies. Assess the degree to which an application is a new tool. Avoid highlighting a named product or service…focus instead on the general attributes, benefits and drawbacks of a given application, process or tool.
      • Examples - Do you have an appropriate number of examples? Documenting comparative results convinces participants that your ideas have been tested in the real world.
      • Timeliness - Will your presentation still be up-to-date and cutting-edge in six to nine months when the conference occurs? Will your topic have implications in the future? How relevant is your topic in the context of pending legislation, regulations and technology?
      • Inclusion of good, solid insights - What attendees want to learn is the reality versus the hype, the positive and negative attributes, problems encountered but not often discussed, realistic expectations for the operational use and adaptability to a changing environment. They are searching for guidelines and models to simplify or manage their own application or installation.
      • Logical conclusions - Are your conclusions supported by data? Attendees place a high value on supporting data in assessing the value and applicability of presentations. Include adequate and convincing details.
      • Identification of outside resources - Have you included sources of information, benchmark data or other examples?
      • Avoidance of product/vendor commercial - No commercials and/or proprietary information for particular products, services or vendors are permitted.
      • Completeness of proposal - The quality, completeness and accuracy of the proposal will be considered during session selection process.
      • Preferred Speaker Qualifications - Panelists should reflect the diversity of California with a north/south, large/small, urban/rural representation when possible.
        • Five or more (5+) years of public presentation experience.
        • Two or more (2+) years of experience related to working in or presenting on the topic or idea.
        • More than two (2) successful speaking engagements to large audiences at a regional or state level in the past two years.
        • Must not pose a conflict of interest with subject/business area or must disclose such information in each speaker bio submitted.
        • No commercialism.

      To ensure a variety of perspectives, Cal Cities policy limits the number of times an individual, group, business or organization can speak at a single conference. In addition, each panel should have no more than one panelist per city/county, firm, company or organization (exceptions may apply).

      • Overall - In the end, you must make your case for the importance of this topic and its relevance to participants.

      Registration and Speaker Policy

      The League of California Cities is unable to full provide complimentary registration or any reimbursement of expenses, travel, or other compensation. We recognize and deeply appreciate your interest and commitment. The success of our program depends on the efforts of practicing professionals willing to volunteer their time to professional education.

      Privacy Policy

      We value your privacy and will never share any of your personal information nor sell your e-mail address to an outside party.