The History of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter

The origin of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of APWA began from the creation of the Virginia – DC Chapter with approval from the National APWA Board of Directors on May 4, 1956. Two years later the Chapter’s name was updated to the Virginia-DC-Maryland Chapter to reflect the expansion of its geographic footprint when Maryland joined the Chapter. This name stayed in existence until West Virginia joined the Chapter.  Recognizing the Chapter’s name would require a significant change, the Board of Directors solicited suggestions from the membership and the name Mid-Atlantic  Chapter emerged as the winning submission. The name became official at the annual membership meeting in May 2012.

In February of 1956 individuals in Virginia and the District of Columbia met in the offices of the Virginia Municipal League in Richmond to explore the possibility of forming a Chapter. Primary motivating individuals included Bob Hopson, Director of Public Works of Richmond and future (1966) APWA president; Louis Washer of Richmond; Bill Xanten, Washington, DC Sanitation Superintendent and 1949 APWA President; John Croker, DC staff engineer; Sol Ellison, Newport News Director of Public Works and then president–elect of National APWA; and Jim Wright, Public Works Director of Lynchburg, the first Chapter president. At this meeting it was decided to form a Chapter and draft proposed Bylaws for submission to National APWA. With the approval by National a subsequent meeting was held on May 25th at the League offices. The group set an organizational meeting for September 8, 1956. Coincidentally, National APWA approved the Chapter’s Bylaws on May 25th, the same day that the second meeting was held.

The first annual full membership meeting was held September 16 and 17, 1957 in Richmond with 50 members in attendance. The meeting was held in conjunction with the Virginia Municipal League annual meeting. By the second annual meeting in September 1958 there were 159 members and $220 in the treasury. The next year was the first of the Annual Conference and Equipment Show with the theme “Operations of Public Works Departments in a Natural Emergency.” The meeting was well attended by members, spouses and thirty-eight commercial exhibitors.

In the early 80’s the Chapter Executive Committee was very interested in meeting in towns and cities that had historical buildings, bridges, monuments, etc. After their business meetings they would go to these Historical places and present a Historical Award from the Chapter to the proper official(s). Awards were presented for at least six historic sites. Baltimore’s Eastern Avenue Pumping Station was honored in 1982. A working pumping station since 1910, it houses the Baltimore Public Works Museum.

Foremost among the sites honored is the Cape Henry Lighthouse, which serves as the Mid Atlantic Chapter’s logo. The lighthouse was the first federally funded public works project of the newly formed United States government. It was authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamiton. Built of stone by John McComb Jr. it was completed in October of 1792 at a cost of $17,700. During the civil war it was damaged by Confederate forces and repaired by Union forces to provide navigation services into the Chesapeake Bay. In 1881, after concerns arose about the stability of this lighthouse, a second lighthouse was built. The old Cape Henry Lighthouse remained standing acting as a daylight marker for triangulation. The original Cape Henry Lighthouse is a designated National Historic Landmark and is owned and operated by Preservation Virginia.

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter has a strong history of leadership at the National level. Four have been National Presidents: Bill Xanten (Washington, DC) in 1948; Sol Ellenson (Newport News) in 1957; Bob Hopson (Richmond) in 1965; Judy Mueller (Charlottesville) in 2001; and Diane Linderman (Richmond) in 2012. Six have served as National Directors; two have been Presidents of the Education Foundation and Institute of Solid Wastes. Chapter members have also been President of the Historical Society, Emergency Management Council, and Administrative Management Institute and Chairman of the House of Delegates. Two have been honored with the Harry W. Swearingen Award, and two have been awarded the Charles Nichols Award. The Chapter has had numerous Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year.

Our early history would not be complete without recognition of Don Frady, Director of Public Works for Falls Church. Don was the Chapter President in 1961. Prior to 1971, Chapters had representatives to the National APWA. In 1969, Don was named to a 3-year term as Chapter representative to Board. In 1970 he became the Region III Director and as Region III Director until 1976. Don was the Chapter’s first Historian and served in that capacity from 1976 until 1994

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