October 2011, Vol. 66 No. 10

Editor's Log

Editor's Log: Honoring Quiet Success

There are many types of awards or special recognition bestowed annually in our industry — the underground infrastructure construction and rehabilitation market. Most are well-deserved and for the right reasons (though there does seem to be a lot of “political” thinking involved in some of that recognition – but that’s a conversation for another day).

It’s easy to recognize the high-profile types. Those people are popular, active, generally well-traveled and their work makes them “obvious” choices. That’s certainly great and we shouldn’t take anything away from them or their well-deserved awards – our industry needs those types in abundance.

The industry also has need for the not-so-well-known people, yet those who make a significant positive difference to their business or organization every day. The 2012 Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award, presented jointly by the Underground Construction Technology Association and Underground Construction magazine, will be bestowed to one those quiet people, the city of Austin, TX, Assistant Director Gopal Guthikonda. He is someone who diligently goes about his task in not only a professional manner, but in such a way as to go above and beyond duty parameters to excel and has truly made a difference for the citizens of Austin.

Guthikonda was tasked with the unenviable chore of satisfying a major EPA consent decree/administrative order. Guthikonda was more than up for the massive undertaking. He efficiently and effectively tackled the $400 million program in such a way as to become a benchmark for other cities finding themselves in similar situations.

But Guthikonda’s accomplishments don’t stop there. He played a leading role in the follow-up organization and deployment of Austin Water Utility’s CMOM program, which has become a model for Texas and North America. The purpose of this program is to maintain EPA compliance into the future.

Gopal Guthikonda is probably not a name particularly well-known outside of the Southwest – for now. He goes about his job with typical humility, taking every opportunity to reap praise upon the accomplishments of other Austin staff members. But to an increasing number of municipal personnel around the country, his name continues to be identified as the definition of success in executing an EPA consent decree program, CMOM and benefiting your community.

Guthikonda will be presented the MVP Award at the annual banquet, held in conjunction with the UCT (Underground Construction Technology International Conference & Exhibition), on Tuesday, Jan. 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hilton Palacio del Rio’s Pavilion in San Antonio. To register for this special event, go to www.uctaonline.org.

Defining infrastructure
Here we go again. The President’s latest blueprint for solving all the economic ills of the nation – and effectively, the world – will come from The Stimulus, Round 2, or, Another Government-Based Employment Plan, al la The Great Society of Lyndon Johnson.

Pardon my skepticism, but throwing money around without a tangible plan doesn’t strike me as much of a plan. But my skepticism doesn’t stop with the President. I think we can all agree that the last session of Congress failed miserably in many ways, but it was very successful in losing the confidence of the American people.

Which brings us back to TSR2 and jobs. One of the prime talking points of the President was aiding infrastructure – road, bridges and airports. Conspicuously absent from the conversation mix to date has been the needs of the water and sewer infrastructure.

Our industry is in a better position now than at any point in the past in terms of Congressional awareness. But the underground infrastructure market still lags behind other infrastructure organizations in terms of political power.

While I’m very dubious about prospects for funding such programs without burdening businesses (or as I like to call them – job creators) even further with taxes and fees, any conversations or action about infrastructure absolutely must contain strong support for the underground infrastructure. Not only is it equally effective and beneficial in generating jobs, it also deals with an essential public trust – the health and well-being of American citizens

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