Civil Engineering & Local Politics: Should You Run For Office?

May 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm 5 comments



By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

It is that time of year again and the political landscape is heating up! A Google search shows that past/current Mayors of Omaha, NE,  City of East Orange, NJ and Norton, OH were/are civil engineers. Current Portland, OR Mayoral  candidate,  Steve Sung,  spent 32 years as a civil engineer for the city of Portland. With two candidates for California and Indiana congress, civil engineers are “taking to the streets” to lead policy formation.

Recently I asked civil engineer and past Mayor of Frederick, Maryland, Jeff Holtzinger, for his thoughts on civil engineers and local politics. Here is his comment:

“Civil Engineers are a good fit to solve the problems many cities are facing with aging infrastructure and infrastructure that has been outpaced by growth.  I also think the analytical thinking which is part of an engineering background gives engineers an advantage in problem solving.”

As our cities’ infrastructure decays, having a background in civil engineering seems to bring an added benefit to the political table. It would be interesting to see if cities with civil engineering trained Mayors have better infrastructure at the end of their term than similar cities.

What do you think?

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Entry filed under: Career Development, Civil Engineering, civil engineering blog, Education, Infrastructure, Politics and the Environmenta, The U.S. Economy & Civil Engineering, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. youngmotivatedengineer  |  May 3, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I think a Civil Engineer serving as mayor would put that person and all of their decisions under scrutiny. Depending on how long they practiced Engineering and the roles they had with their companies, they are going to have a lot of contacts in the field. As a result, a lot of decisions or recommendations they make about what products to specify or what engineers/contractors to use could be seen as conflicts of interest. While some people may just see this as a knowledgeable mayor who can offer good insight, others won’t and will try to derail all of the plans, even if the engineer isn’t trying to pull strings or use contacts for discounts. This is especially true if the engineer beat out another strong candidate for the position. In this day and age, people and the media can be ruthless and even if there is nothing there, they will try to make something out of it causing the mayor to spend more time trying to defend himself than actual managing the town.

    Reply
  • 2. R. Douglas Olmstead  |  May 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    I have thought many a time about running for public office, but I also enjoy my privacy and with the way the press operates today, my response is: No Thank You!

    Reply
    • 3. aepcentral  |  May 3, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Public service is admirable and often a thank-less job. Whatever political line one falls on, we must support our candidates who put themselves out there!

      Reply
  • 4. aepcentral  |  May 2, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Excellent comment. Thanks, as always, Kerry, for your insights!

    Reply
  • 5. kbharding  |  May 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Dan W. Patton, who served as the 17th Mayor of Tulsa from 1928-1930, was one of the original citizens of Tulsa and served as Tulsa County city engineer from 1917 to 1926.
    Patton was hired to lay out the original town site. This was when Tulsa’s first water system was built and the street-naming system for the downtown area was established. After his election, Mayor Patton helped push through the public works program and his administration had more public works projects started and completed during that period of time than any other subsequent mayor. Like Patton, civil engineers have a unique perspective and vision as to how a community’s infrastructure serve as a basis for meeting economic development goals as well as improving the health, education and welfare of the local populace. One might ask then, why aren’t there more civil engineers in government at the local, state and federal levels? My guess would be that, with their propensity for analysis and accuracy and attention to detail, engineers find that the vague generalizations and broad promises made to secure campaign contributions and solicit votes run sufficiently counter to their mettle that they find or would find the entire process enormously distasteful.

    Reply

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