Day Two of the ULI Leadership Institute began with one man’s story of leadership, perspective and perseverance told through the lens of his bike race across America. Len Forkas captivated the group as he recounted the milestones from his 11-day ride and showed what it takes to be a leader in times of great adversity. Len shared that two days into his epic trip, a critical member of the team was not performing. Rather than taking a tact that could have compromised all the hard work that the entire team had done in preparation for the race, Len chose to express his gratitude and encourage this team member with positive feedback. Len’s actions actually inspired his teammate to re-focus her career following the race. Through other anecdotes which distilled what he believes to be the critical cornerstones of effective leadership- including forgiveness, knowing your limits, and honoring roles-he reinforced that leadership is both learned and practiced.
The day’s theme was Infrastructure and Transportation, and the setting for the panels and activities was the new headquarters building for Alexandria Renew Enterprise. With commanding views north towards the District, the group looked forward to learning more about one of the nation’s most advanced water resource recovery utilities.
The CEO of Renew Alexandria, Karen Pallanschek, provided a comprehensive view of the wastewater plant processes and revealed some of the challenges facing their system. Community outreach and education are seen as an important new facet of operating a public utility. The team has a new emphasis on building awareness of the important innovations among the communities that Renew serves. Many of the users have (in all likelihood) been unaware of the services that the plant provides. Now, with the new headquarters, there is a public-facing education exhibit where best practices and the story of water reclamation can be shared and promoted. Surprisingly, the outreach didn’t stop at the face of the building.
Staff from the plant led a hard-hat tour of the nutrient management facility that was located below a new turf sports field that will be open for community use. This is just one of the many public amenities incorporated in the design of the building and facility. The nutrient management system provides odor control and continues Alexandria Renew’s commitment to ‘being a good neighbor’. Partnerships with Alexandria Fire and Police departments, landscape educational areas, and creating urban wildlife habitat are just a couple of the other initiatives that Renew supports.
In the afternoon there was an Regional Transportation Panel which was moderated by Emeka Moneme and included Jamie Henson (DDOT), David Zaidain (Amtrak), and Chuck Latucca (MTA). The discussion moved beyond their individual projects: the Benning Road to Georgetown Streetcar, Burnham Place and Capital Improvements at Union Station, and the Purple Line respectively; to include some unique insights on leadership in the context of large public projects. The speakers concurred that when confronted with multi-stakeholder public/ private projects, leadership takes the form of consensus building and establishing trust among the key stakeholders. This brought the group full circle to the themes discussed during the mornings’ leadership message. Another theme, reiterated from Day 1, was the interdependence between large public projects and how the NEPA process makes it difficult for comprehensive planning and problem solving to occur.
At the end of the day, a roleplaying game called “You’ll Pay for This” brought the presentations and discussions into perspective. When the opportunity to initiate large scale development in your jurisdiction arises, you have to make some critical and creative decisions as to where to adjust budgets and then carefully craft the presentation to the public. The seemingly simple game showed the pitfalls and politics of any strategic decision.
We are looking forward to Day 3: Finance and Development Process.