Tom Sliwoski '78 Speaks to Seminar Class

by Cadet R.E. Baker '10 and Cadet R. Alfree '10 

During the fall semester, the CEE seminar is featuring various speakers for the First Class.  On September 8th, Mr. Tom Sliwoski ’78 spoke to the cadets about his job as a Public Works Director for the city of Staunton, Virginia.  He explained his background, scope of his job, projects he has been on, and things he has learned.  After a 20 year Air Force career, Tom came to his current job as director which entails overseeing the department charged with maintenance and repair of the city’s public infrastructure. This includes the streets, utilities, facilities, services/ sanitation, equipment maintenance, and traffic.  The department has over 86 full time employees and 20 part time employees.  Their budget of 15 million is the largest in the city and they receive approximately 1500 service requests each year.

During Tom’s time as director he has initiated a 4.5 million dollar upgrade of the city’s water plant, of which the max flow is 8 million gallons per day, and the rehabilitation of a major water intake pipe.   When he first came on as director the water plant was in disrepair, with many broken gauges and pieces of equipment not in service.  He initiated the eventual 4.5 million dollar of the plant, which now serves as a model for other neighboring cities.

His experience in this job has shown him that priorities matter.  He discussed several aspects of the job and gave some examples of phone calls he receives.  A typical call would be from a citizen asking his department why their street did not get paved while the next street over did receive maintenance.  He explained to us that the department cannot do everything.  Specifically, he explained that street paving of major traffic roads must come first.  He said with certain limitations (probably manpower or budget), not all roads will get repaved each year.  He also said the same goes for snowplowing during winter storms.  They cannot do everything; they must chose the important work.

Tom told us that Public Works is “the Heart of the Community” and that their department’s work “impacts all citizens everyday and everywhere.”  He finally discussed the importance of being a licensed engineer and how that will help both personally and professionally.  His presentation was informative and appreciated by all in the class.