No typical day for Heinz, Libertyville Public Works
Updated: March 29, 2012 3:39PM
Today in our series of “Have You Met?,” I’d like to introduce you to John Heinz, Libertyville’s Director of Public Works.
Some time ago, he sent me a letter that Public Works received from a young admirer, who thanked the department staff for all their work in keeping our communities safe and attractive. John told me how it was nice to receive such acknowledgement, and we both agreed that most residents don’t know the complete scope of tasks that Public Works (PW) performs. In an attempt to remedy that, here is our cyber-conversation.
Q: You have been Libertyville’s Director of Public Works for almost five years. How did you choose that career path?
A: As a civil engineer I originally wanted to design wastewater treatments plants coming out of college but no jobs were available, so in all the municipalities I have worked (Geneva, Lindenhurst, Barrington and Libertyville) over 29 years, we have owned and operated a plant. So I am still involved with that aspect, among many other responsibilities in PW.
Q: Describe a typical day in Public Works.
A: There is no typical day, much of it can be weather-driven. Snow, ice, rain, wind and severe weather is when we are at our best. We have routine maintenance that we do during a ‘regular’ day in all of the PW divisions: streets, parks, water, wastewater, sewer, forestry, fleet services, engineering, recycling and refuse, snow and ice. We are also responsible for most of the capital construction projects in the village. It is always busy, even on holidays when the guys have to plow snow or repair a water main break.
Q: What is the most unusual job Public Works performs, one that residents would be surprised to discover?
A: We impact everyone’s life every single day. For instance, we are custodians of the drinking water system, which includes treatment, storage and distribution. In this country, good drinking water is taken for granted and we do not think twice about using water or flushing a toilet, unless there is no water or functioning sewer. Then, it is akin to an emergency.
Similar to snowplowing or salting, not many people think about it unless it is not done. Our employees work very hard to ensure everyday life as all have come to expect is not disrupted in one way or another.
Q: Do you foresee increased public awareness and appreciation for the vital nature of many Public Works tasks in these environmentally aware days, or do we still take it for granted?
A: Most take PW for granted unless the work is not completed or life as we know it has a disruption, as I mentioned above. We also provide significant support to what many view as ‘essential’ public services like Police and Fire. PW maintains all their vehicles and equipment so they can respond to emergencies. We are also first responders to emergencies and man-made and natural disasters, providing equipment, manpower and resources to address whatever need arises in an emergency. Our relationship with Police and Fire is vital and has always been a very good and positive one.
Another surprising tidbit is that some PW departments are starting into ‘Prescribed Burn” programs, something I discovered after receiving a VH village email. John told me that “the burn aspect is relatively new to a PW Department, and more departments are getting into it”. I bet you never thought about just how much our Public Works Departments do to improve our daily lives, but thanks to John, now you know.
Send email to Pat Lenhoff at: