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At Annual ASIE Reception, Designers Learn How the City Hums

The Board of the ASIE after the event with the chief guest. Front row front left: Virinder (Ben) Bansal, Avinash Patel, Ravi Arora, Chaitanya Gampa, ASIE President Sai Gowthami Asam, featured speaker Carol Haddock, Director, City of Houston Public Works Department; Archana Sharma, Tej Kour, Showri Nandagiri and Bhavana Patel. Back row, from left: Ashish Bagga, Sirish Madichetti and Apoorv Kumar

The Board of the ASIE after the event with the chief guest. Front row front left: Virinder (Ben) Bansal, Avinash Patel, Ravi Arora, Chaitanya Gampa, ASIE President Sai Gowthami Asam, featured speaker Carol Haddock, Director, City of Houston Public Works Department; Archana Sharma, Tej Kour, Showri Nandagiri and Bhavana Patel. Back row, from left: Ashish Bagga, Sirish Madichetti and Apoorv Kumar Photos: Navin Mediwala

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Just 18 months ago, after the 2017 Board had been sworn in, the American Society of Indian Engineers and Architects declared a goal of enlarging its membership base. It has worked consistently to do so by maintaining a high profile throughout the year with monthly technical meetings and other key events like the scholarships its metes out to deserving students and its annual Fall Holiday luncheon.

In the ensuing year, the ASIE has purposefully mentored a younger generation of professionals to come on its Board to steer the organization forward. “It is our goal during my term to engage more young professionals,” said current ASIE President Sai Gowthami Asam, “and get their help in mentoring young girls in the STEM fields.”

Asam was speaking at the ASIE’s flagship May luncheon at the Omni Westside Hotel on Thursday, May 31. It is an annual event at which the broadest range of its membership and mainstream supporters from the engineering community gather to hear from the City of Houston’s highest officials, which began with then mayor Annise Parker. For a fifth year the City’s Director of Public Works and Engineering Department was the featured speaker and this year, newly installed director Carol Ellinger Haddock spoke about PWE’s achievements over the past two years since Mayor Sylvester Turner came to office.

“I know half of the past presidents of the ASIE,” said Haddock as she approached the podium, “and that speaks volumes for the organization.” Haddock, a licensed professional engineer, was formerly with Klotz Associates and the Harris County Flood Control District’s program manager for Project Brays and has worked at the department since July 2005.

She took over as acting director in July 2017 after Dr. Karun Sreerama resigned the position, and in January 2018 became the first woman to head the department. She has a bachelors of science degree in civil engineering from Rice University and a masters in public administration from the University of Houston.

 

City of Houston Public Works Department Director Carol Haddock described the last two years of challenges and achievements for her department.

The Board of the ASIE after the event with the chief guest. Front row front left: Virinder (Ben) Bansal, Avinash Patel, Ravi Arora, Chaitanya Gampa, ASIE President Sai Gowthami Asam, featured speaker Carol Haddock, Director, City of Houston Public Works Department; Archana Sharma, Tej Kour, Showri Nandagiri and Bhavana Patel. Back row, from left: Ashish Bagga, Sirish Madichetti and Apoorv Kumar

With a series of slides, Haddock outlined the immensity of the city of Houston – about 650 square miles which would encompass the cities of Miami, Cleveland, St. Louis, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Boston and San Francisco – with a density of 3,000 people per square mile. “We have 37 percent of the land in Harris County, but 54 percent of the population,” she explained, adding that PWE’s 3,900 people and $2.1 billion was responsible for running the city’s infrastructure.

In her presentation entitled “Mission Possible”, Haddock outlined the challenges presented since January 2016 and how PWE rose to meet them. Citing Mayor Turner’s resolve to fix potholes the next day, she explained how the field crews were able to develop a system to make this happen “in 3 days and now we are 98 percent there because the employees were empowered.” Among PWE’s successes were handling the crowds for the NCAA Final Four tournament, the Super Bowl in 2017 and the World Series parade.

Of course, major weather events tested PWE’s responsiveness and Haddock noted that her department came out shining during the Tax Day Flood of 2016, Hurricane Harvey and the ice storms of early 2018, working around-the-clock and even braving high water in dump trucks to rescue stranded people. “What I have learned about leadership is to trust your team and give them authority, responsibility, accountability and communicate expectations,” concluded Haddock. In response to this reporter’s question of floodgates and warnings at underpasses which claimed an Indian woman’s life two years ago, she said that most of these low areas were now monitored.

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