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Word around the chapter water cooler is that this year’s Administrative Conference lineup was one of the best ever. With new faces from several agencies, the list of speakers represented a fully informative program for members wanting to stay abreast of our shifting political climate and industry requirements. President-Elect Roger Albert led each session with ease and humor, guiding discussions from one topic to the next. On the federal level, we were happy to welcome back Jeff Shoaf from AGC of America, and Al Alonzi from FHWA. As tenuous as the federal highway program’s status is becoming of late, both gentlemen provided very good, if different, accounts of what the federal highway program needs to fulfill its obligations to the nation (Shoaf discussed the political needs; Alonzi covered innovation).

At the state political level, we were fortunate to welcome two of last session’s most effective legislators in terms of highway legislation: Chairman Drew Darby and Chairman Larry Phillips. The contributions each of these chairs made to our legislative achievements cannot be overstated. The highway program emerged as the only one of the state’s programs to receive increased funding. All others received massive cuts.

Day two centered on regulatory agencies and their partnerships with the industry. Representatives from TCEQ, The Railroad Commission, US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Texas Water Development Board were on hand to discuss program updates. Joining them was J.D. Abrams’ Dean Bernal, who provided a glimpse into the Chapter’s Crane Training Program efforts.

One of the most valuable components of attending these presentations was not necessarily information given, but the opportunity for the membership to ask questions. Several speakers promised to do research and get back with members on specific questions they had. This, besides the beach, is the conference’s main attraction.

Day three, reserved as “TxDOT Day” by tradition, featured several of our hardworking TxDOT partners, and—speaking of hardworking—David Casteel more than once. There is always a lot going on at TxDOT, but directly following a legislative session, it goes double. We heard progress on TxDOT’s modernization initiatives, the letting forecast for the next biennium, DBE/SBE issues, and an update on TxDOT’s wage rate survey, which should be finalized and approved by the time of this issue’s publication.

The highway program emerged as the only one of the state’s programs to receive increased funding. All others received massive cuts.

Outside the meeting rooms were the typical beach-oriented diversions, although this year we had an uninvited guest: Tropical Storm Don. I feel I can speak for everybody there when I say we hoped the storm could just skip straight over the island and travel as far west as it could manage. Instead, we experienced a very brief “drizzle and fizzle,” then it was back to the beach.

Special thanks go to President-Elect Albert for his leadership, Jennifer Newton for putting the program together, and Debbie Koehler for managing the logistics. If you are curious about the subject matter discussed during the conference, contact the chapter office. We’d be happy to forward you any of the presentations given. We’d be even happier to see you next year at the conference.

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