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Asset manager prepared for anything

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Lianette Leon left her native Puerto Rico for Texas in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, and says that the experience taught her a lot about coping with disruption.

“We were inside the house for 12 hours while the winds were 200 miles an hour outside,” she said.

“And when we came out we saw the mountains, and all the trees on them are gone just with the strength of the wind, but it looked like the wind had almost burned everything with its force.”

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Lianette and her family left for Texas, to the city of Baytown where her husband had secured a job.

The move also turned out to be a change of career for her too, as she transitioned from her career as a finance professional and into asset management, moving from a finance director role with municipal authorities in Puerto Rico to her current role as an Asset Manager in the Texas City of Baytown, population 76,000.

To assist in the transition, Lianette recently completed IPWEA’s Professional Certificate in Asset Management Planning.

“I started from scratch with asset management, so I needed to understand about things like condition assessment, asset classes and what to consider in long term financial planning,” she said.

Lianette is also Baytown’s first Asset Manager, as the authority now combines roles which previously resided in the finance department and public works.

“We manage streets and roads, traffic lights, solid waste and recycling, water and wastewater and of course our buildings and our fleet,” she said.

“Combining the roles and having an integrated capital improvements project and using the asset management approach is going to make the City more efficient and more sustainable, and helps us get better performance from the assets themselves.”

She said Baytown was taking its asset management “to another level”, and the new approach had been made more efficient by the implementation of automation across many previously manual processes.

Lianette is an active member of the American Public Works Association (APWA), which directed her to the IPWEA certificate.   

“They really endorsed IPWEA and the course, so I followed up and got some more information and understood more about IPWEA and its knowledge of the asset management framework, so I decided to do the course.”

While describing the course as “challenging”, Lianette also sings its praises in terms of the concepts she learned and the skills she acquired.

The online component, she says, was not a negative issue and she “never felt alone, I never felt lost” and the mentoring was a particular highlight.

“There was great interaction with everyone on the course and it made understanding these complicated and heavy concepts much easier, so it was a wonderful experience,” she said.

The course helped her understand concepts such as the “linking of consequences with budgets” and assisted her with tools to communicate medium and long term asset planning to stakeholders.

“It was great in showing how we can be efficient in providing a superior level of services to citizens and still work with limited budgets every fiscal year,” she said.

“I better understood how we can extend the life of our assets and invest the tax dollars in the best way, and how we can communicate and give feedback to citizens.”

Lianette said another concept the course “opened my eyes” to was diversity, and how asset management decisions impacted on communities and strategic decisions could influence better diversity outcomes in the long term.

Part of this was an understanding of culture, both in the organisation she works in and the community she serves, and that this cultural dimension also related to the planning and deliver of asset management.

 “Asset management is very important for Baytown in its journey to become a smart city so I really want to be prepared for that,” she said.

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