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


June 21, 2017 by John W. Carpita, PE
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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.

Ask MRSC

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!


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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.

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