American Public Works Association recognizes MPA alumnus Joseph Fennell

Joe Fennell
Joseph Fennell

An alumnus of NIU’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program is being recognized nationally for his leadership in public works projects.

Joseph Fennell, executive director of the Northwest Suburban Municipal Joint Action Water Agency, was named to the American Public Works Association’s (APWA) list of 2014 Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year.

APWA annually recognizes 10 of the most outstanding public works professionals from across the U.S. and Canada for their career-long dedication and service, professionalism and expertise in public works infrastructure.

An active alumnus, Fennel graduated with his NIU MPA degree in 1984. His son Allen is also an alumnus of the program, having received his MPA in 2010. Allen works for the Village of Woodridge.

“Joe Fennel exemplifies the best in our MPA graduates,” said Kurt Thurmaier, professor and chair of the Department of Public Administration. “He is a truly dedicated public servant who, while working in a difficult financial and political environment, manages complex systems that affect thousands of people every day. It is wonderful that he is getting recognized by his peers around the nation as an outstanding public manager.”

Joseph Fennell will be honored in August during the APWA 2014 International Public Works Congress & Exposition in Toronto. He also will be presented the award locally at a ceremony from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at Seven Bridges Golf Course located at One Mulligan Drive in Woodridge.

Fennell manages the policies and contractual commitments of a multi-jurisdictional, inter-governmental agency through the operations of a water plant and transmission network serving a daytime population of 500,000. He manages personnel, budgetary and operational policy matters.

American Public Works Association logoHis agency purchases its water from the City of Chicago, and Fennell regularly interacts with city and state officials concerning matters of allocation, distribution and legislative administration.

In 2004, the City of Chicago approached Fennell with a request to relocate the agency’s single supply line to its 350,000 customers to avoid the new O’Hare International Airport runway. Fennell worked to ensure that water supply was continuous throughout the relocation project.

Fennell recently navigated possibly his biggest challenge of all—the need to relocate a significant part of the water system to accommodate the widening of the I-90 Jane Addams Tollway.

Unlike the O’Hare main, this part of the main was relocated at the agency’s cost, a massive undertaking with the first estimates at $120 million. Fennell worked with consultants and Illinois Tollway officials to reduce the impacts as well as the total cost, to $70 million. He successfully negotiated a repayment plan, reducing the impact to his member communities and customers.

Based in Kansas City, Mo., the American Public Works Association is a not-for-profit, international organization of more than 28,500 members involved in the field of public works. More information on APWA’s Top Ten Public Works Leaders is available online.

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