Wastewater treatment plant upgrade, Wilsonville.
By Johanna Carson. Photos courtesy of Delora Kerber.
Delora Kerber, B.S. civil engineering ’83, director of public works for the city of Wilsonville, Oregon, was selected as a 2021 Top Ten Public Works Leader by the American Public Works Association.
The honor recognizes leaders’ professionalism, expertise, and dedication to improving the quality of life in their communities through the advancement of public works services and technology.
Kerber was cited for advancing the profession through her “leadership talent, engineering knowledge, desire to serve, willingness to take risks, and interpersonal skills” over the course of her 38 years in public works. As director of public works for Wilsonville, Kerber provides management and strategic planning for infrastructure in the fast-growing community of some 25,000 residents, about 17 miles south of Portland. She oversees a $14 million budget and manages 26 full-time employees.
“One of the most exciting projects has been the expansion of our wastewater treatment plant,” Kerber said. Completed in 2014, the $44 million project is among the largest public capital investments the city has ever made. Its contracting featured an innovative “design-build- operate” delivery model — the first of its kind in Oregon, Kerber says — with the firm CH2M Hill, now Jacobs.
Nominators emphasized that Kerber’s leadership style has played a key role in her many achievements.
“She has that rare combination of expertise and passion for public works and engineering, strongly coupled with her passion for helping people succeed,” said Steven Hartwig, a former colleague who is now a deputy county executive in Sacramento County, California.
For herself, Kerber says she’s proud of her ability to serve as a mentor, that she can share her experience and knowledge with others.
“I had mentors, and those relationships were very valuable to me and helped clarify which things I should be concerned about,” she said.
She’s also quick to credit Oregon State University for setting her on a path to success.
“I love OSU and I always have,” she said. “The College of Engineering prepared me well for going into my career, and I have very fond memories. It was a great time to be there.”