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A Tale of Many Cities, Counties, Special Districts and ….

June 21, 2017 by John W. Carpita, PE

A Tale of Many Cities, Counties, Special Districts and ….

Charles Dickens wrote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

All of which describe what Washington local governments have been through in the past 21 years.  I know, because I and MRSC have been there with them.  This is my last blog post for MRSC and I’d like to share a bit of what my time serving the Washington State local government community has meant to me.

First, a few short biographical notes.  I was born and raised in western Montana, graduated from Montana State University in 1970 with a Masters in Civil Engineering, and became a licensed professional engineer in 1972.  From 1970-79, I worked at several public agencies and for consulting firms in Montana and Idaho before becoming the first County Engineer in Kootenai County, Idaho.  In 1986, I moved my family to Issaquah where I worked for several years at the city as a project manager for several large transportation projects with diverse funding sources.

In 1995, I saw an ad for the Public Works Consultant position at MRSC, applied, and in 1996, stepped into the most rewarding and amazing job a person could ever have. Every day of my career at MRSC has been spent making someone else’s life and work a little easier. 

Here are few notes on some of my favorite projects (and people) over the years.


One of the most personally satisfying things I’ve done at MRSC is to consult with local governments through our inquiry program, Ask MRSC

Through this program, we are available to elected officials and government staff to help them save time and do their jobs more effectively.  From helping a small town city clerk fill out a combined prevailing wage form for an $1,800 sewer repair project to working with attorneys and public works directors on a bid award question for a multimillion dollar project, my workdays were never dull.  One urgent phone call or email request could change the whole day’s work plan.

Knowing many people at all levels of state and local government helped immensely.  One of the most productive groups that I’ve worked with consists of more than 350 city and county engineers and public works directors across the state.  When I received a recent inquiry requesting pavement repair policies, this group offered up 35 samples within a week.  Thanks to all of you.

MRSC Publications

Over the years, I had the opportunity to be the primary author of the following publications (including multiple editions):

In-Person Trainings

This has been my passion for many years.  Initially, MRSC – in cooperation with attorneys, appraisers, and financial consultants – offered workshops on Local Improvement Districts and Road Improvement Districts.

In 2002, MRSC and APWA joined forces to jointly sponsor the Contract Administration Subcommittee's (CASC) workshops and a certificate program.  CASC (aka CAEC) was formally organized in 2002 in response to a growing need for formal training in public works contract administration. Workshops were initially held at one rotating venue in the Puget Sound area and now take place quarterly at venues across the state, with well over 200 attendees at each workshop series.  A big shout-out to Sherry Arciniega and Linda Shilley for their stewardship as CAEC committee chairs.

In addition to the CAEC workshops, MRSC/APWA cosponsor 1- and 2-day purchasing and contracting workshops in collaboration with WSDOT’s Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP).  We‘ve just completed our latest, non-LTAP series of 2-day workshops and I want to thank all the agencies that hosted these trainings and all my wonderful copresenters.

MRSC Webinars, Webpages, and Blogs

Over the years, I’ve organized and copresented at MRSC webinars on assorted topics and helped to maintain and update a variety of webpages to keep them relevant and useful.  I must admit, blogs were not my favorite thing to do although it did occasionally allow me to indulge my impish sense of humor, such as the time I wrote about using goats for vegetation control.

MRSC Rosters

In 2005, I became aware of Lynnwood’s shared small public works roster and thought, “Hey, MRSC could do that — for the whole state!”

I worked with other MRSC staffers, including Don Edlin (who passed away in April) and Marcie Klobucher, and MRSC Rosters was launched in January 2007. Those first weeks were a rush of activity as we scrambled to get contractors and consultants registered.

Under the expert care and guidance of program administrators Ellen Hutchinson and Taira Anderson, MRSC Rosters has grown from more than 30 agencies in the Puget Sound area (in 2007) to 494 agencies today, with at least one member agency in each of Washington’s 39 counties.

MRSC’s Find Your Contracting Requirements Tool

Another fun project, cosponsored by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, was to develop an online Find Your Contracting Requirements Tool to help local governments identify and understand specific statutory legal requirements for purchasing and contracting. My colleague Steve Hawley did a fantastic job distilling tons of regulations into readily accessible webpages.  

Questions? Comments?

Finally, I just want to reiterate how much I’ve enjoyed serving as MRSC’s Public Works Consultant. If you'd like to, please email me. My last day at MRSC is June 30. 

Godspeed to all of you!

About John W. Carpita, PE

Public Works Consultant John is MRSC’s resource for engineering design, purchasing and bidding issues, contract document preparation, construction contract issues, local improvement districts, sewer, water, storm drainage and solid waste issues, as well as resource conservation. He’s a registered professional engineer and has had a widely varied 42-year career as a consultant, county engineer, city engineer and project manager.



"Congratulations, John! Thank you so much for all you've done. I've enjoyed and appreciated your classes, webinars, postings, and perspectives. I wish you only the best in your next chapter of life and many more great memories. Take care."

Kevin Yin on Jul 13, 2017 2:56 PM

"Congratulations John! I haven't talked to you in years but I will never forget all of the times you helped when I worked in Eastern Washington as well as the few times I needed your assistance here at Normandy Park. Enjoy your retirement!"

Debbie Burke on Jul 13, 2017 1:34 PM

"Congratulations on your retirement! As a county employee, I've attended a number of your trainings and have referred back to resources you provided numerous times. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with staff at the local government level to help us understand the system better and to avoid many pitfalls. All the best to you, and happy trails!"

Remy McConnell on Jul 5, 2017 10:58 AM

"John, so sorry to see you leaving the municipal and APWA families. Your legacy screams dedicated public servant, so no doubt people will continue benefitting from your wisdom and humor. Peace and blessings to you in your well-deserved new life phase."

Brian Ziegler on Jun 30, 2017 6:30 AM

"John you will be missed - happy for you as you move on to new adventures. I know you will enjoy each day, because I believe that's your nature. You always made training days so much fun, with theme Powerpoint presentations and your fun sense of humor. But most of all I will remember your integrity and sincerity. Thanks John."

Darcey Strand on Jun 29, 2017 8:28 PM

"Whatever shall I do without you? John, I am so grateful for your gracious, thorough and thoughtful assistance over the years. Your wealth of knowledge, willing spirit and good humor have made an otherwise daunting topic much more tolerable and less frightening. I will miss you, but at the same time I wish you much happiness in your future pursuits. Tomorrow evening I'll picture you riding off on your favorite goat as the "pun" sets in the west...Happy Trails!"

Valerie Hampton on Jun 29, 2017 4:03 PM

"If you put as much effort into your retirement as you have all the years you have been working at the MRSC, your retirement will truly be amazing! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and humor. Congratulations on your retirement!"

Carol Inman on Jun 29, 2017 2:07 PM

"Good for you John. You've been a trusted resource (along with the other great staff at MRSC) for very many years now. You've earned that trust over and over again. I've enjoyed our work together and have shared your obvious passion for helping others learn from our experiences. Enjoy the next chapter in your life. Mike"

Mike Bailey on Jun 29, 2017 1:25 PM

"I will miss your wisdom and wit in answering the complicated questions about public works and Washington State law. Thank you for being in this position and helping us Clerk-Treasurer's negotiate it all. It has been an immense pleasure knowing you!"

Sue Pearson on Jun 29, 2017 1:20 PM

"John, thank you for your many years of dedicated service! Wishing you all the best as you embark on this next adventure!"

Stephanie Lucash on Jun 29, 2017 1:08 PM

"John - Through most of my 25 years in Public Works in Washington, you've been there with ideas, expertise, training and advice. You will be missed. Thanks and WELL DONE!"

Bob Earl on Jun 29, 2017 12:41 PM

"John, you will be greatly missed as such a resource, mentor and support through the 20 years I have grown my career in the Public Works industry. I wish you well as you prosper in your next endeavors. Enjoy and have a little fun tomorrow - Kick up your heels as you walk out that door ! Cheers and THANK YOU ! - Kathy"

Kathy Gormanous on Jun 29, 2017 12:12 PM

"John it has been a pleasure working with you over the years. Your knowledge and insight has helped me through many tough situations. You've been a huge asset to the public works community. Enjoy your retirement but know that you will be missed!"

Matt Rasmussen on Jun 29, 2017 11:35 AM

"You're a class act, John! Going to miss your wealth of knowledge and your friendship! My very, very bet to you!!!"

Sue Ownby on Jun 29, 2017 11:34 AM

"John, it has been a pleasure to have known and worked with you over the years. I was happy at the time that you took a leadership role in tackling flooding issues during the development of Pickering farm, because I knew you would get the issues resolved. Your tenure at MRSC was just as instructive, and I enjoyed working on the LID manual. Again, you took that project on to the benefit of countless people who have to struggle with a complex topic. And I bet I am one of the few who heard about, but never actually heard, the 5 sparkplugs. Enjoy your retirement."

Scott Thomas on Jun 29, 2017 11:33 AM

"John, I want thank you for all your help! I worked in many jurisdictions over the years. You provided great information and advise that helped us navigate some tricky situations gracefully. It has been many years since I contacted you- I now work for the state-but your assistance, wisdom and quick response made all the difference when we needed to make decisions. Thank you for all your help! Wishing well on your next adventure! Elizabeth"

Elizabeth Sjostrom on Jun 29, 2017 11:12 AM

"I suppose it will be up to me to carry the mantle of horrible puns, bad jokes and groan-worthy statements in workshops and trainings. It has been a pleasure to be your partner in crime and I have learned so much over the year. Your crazy sense of humor has made it all so fun while doing it. Happy Retirement my friend."

Catherine McNabb on Jun 29, 2017 11:10 AM

"John, Great sign off to an amazing career. You will be missed as a phenomenal resource and a steady friend. Always positive, always ready to help support the profession, mission and public service in general. And never at a loss for a story or anecdote to make the relevant point. Thank you for all of you support over the years and your contributions to the profession. As we say to all retirees we don't want to say good bye to---see ya around! Dave"

Dave Zabell on Jun 29, 2017 11:09 AM

"John, I can't count the number of times you've saved my bacon over the last two decades. Thanks for all your help, and enjoy your next adventure!"

Steve Gross on Jun 29, 2017 10:32 AM

"Oh no! Somebody, quick, stick a thumb drive in John's ear and download! John: You've been my go to guy for years. Thank you for always promptly, thoughtfully, and thoroughly sharing your vast knowledge and wisdom about all things Public Works. I've enjoyed you in many workshops and not just because of your knowledge but for your ample sense of humor and easy going demeanor. You will be missed. I hope all your dreams come true in retirement! Said with love, Diana Pistoll"

Diana Pistoll on Jun 26, 2017 8:53 AM

"It has been a pleasure working with you over the years. Congratulations on an amazing career, and welcome to a well deserved retirement."

David Dunn on Jun 22, 2017 1:57 PM

"Congratulations on so many years of service to a fine organization. Enjoy the next chapter of your life!"

Kristi on Jun 22, 2017 9:38 AM

"Very interesting article! Public Works is essential, but most people outside of government do not realize the scope of its functions!"

Sherie Sanders on Jun 22, 2017 6:59 AM

23 comments on A Tale of Many Cities, Counties, Special Districts and ….


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