Legal Understanding

Public Employees Leadership Institute
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1. Labor Contracts, Negotiations
2. Operational Impacts of Labor Contracts
3. Administration of Labor Contracts
4. Other Contracts, 28E Agreements
6. Environmental: Clean Air & Water
7. Stormwater/NPDES
8. Pedestrian Access/ADA
10. Drainage District Law

This course examines many aspects of public sector labor contracts, including history of the process, and the need for both direct and indirect involvement by mid-management. Once negotiated, and items become a part of a contract, they can have significant operational impacts on typical maintenance routines and/or costs.

Upon completion of this module, participants will be able to:

  • Be more cognizant and effective his/her administration of labor agreements
  • Identify the correlation between daily operation of public works and the legal/regulatory framework
  • Identify issues where proactive legal advice is good risk management
  • Understand the protections afforded to “whistle blowers”

James Hanks is a shareholder with the Des Moines, Iowa firm of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., which represents a large number of local government bodies, including school districts, community colleges, area education agencies, cities, and counties. For the past ten years, Mr. Hanks has also represented the Governor in labor negotiations on behalf of the State of Iowa. The principal emphasis of his practice is in employment, local government, and educational law.

Mr. Hanks is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate and was a Rhodes Scholar nominee of the University of Iowa.  He received his law degree with high distinction from the College of Law of the University of Iowa and is the past chairperson of the Council of School Attorneys for the National School Boards Association. Currently, he serves as Revenue Enhancement Director and Chair of the Public Education Committee of the American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Iowa Public Employers Labor Relations Association. He is the editor and was a contributing author for “School Violence: From Discipline to Due Process,” a publication of the American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government.

Director of Human Resources, City of Des Moines, IA

Undergraduate degree: University of Northern Iowa
Law degree: Drake University, with honors

Tom Turner is a native Iowan having been born and raised in the Waterloo area. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and an honors graduate of the Drake University Law School. He has been engaged in the human resources field since 1981. He has been the chief human resources leader for Iowa Resources; now known as MidAmerican Energy and Homeland Bankshares Corporation before joining the City’s human resources staff in 1997. Tom served as the City’s human resources director from 1999 to 2011. He oversaw the department and led the City’s collective bargaining teams. Tom now serves at the Human Resources Director for Escambia County, a 1,700 employee organization with offices located in Pensacola, Florida.

He is a current member of the Iowa Bar and is a former President of the Iowa Public Employer Labor Relations Association, a statewide public sector human resources group. Tom and his wife Coralie, Chair of Modern Languages for Grandview University, reside in Des Moines and Pensacola. His children include a Lieutenant in the Navy JAG Corp, an ophthalmologist engaged in a cornea Fellowship in Dallas, Texas and a daughter who is practicing law also in Dallas, Texas.

Professional affiliations
Member of the Iowa Bar and the Society for Human Resources Management Former president of the Iowa Public Employer Labor Relations Association, a statewide public sector human resources group

Julie Huisman was the Human Resources Director for the City of Ames from 2003 until her retirement in 2015. The City of Ames has close to 575 employees, with several hundred additional seasonal and temporary employees and her role was to direct all of the HR activities, including an active leadership development program, health promotion program, and coordination of labor relations with five separate bargaining units.

Prior to coming to the City of Ames, she spent 22 years working for Phillips Petroleum Company in various human resources capacities, including labor, management development, corporate benefits, and international administration. She had work assignments in Stavanger, Norway; Caracas, Venezuela; and Maracaibo, and Venezuela. In 2001, she was hired as the Human Resources Director for the Iowa State University Foundation to help them complete the privatization process from Iowa State University.

Julie completed her master’s degree in Adult Learning, Performance and Development through Drake University in 2008. At the same time, she completed the Executive and Professional Coaching certification program offered through the University of Texas at Dallas Graduate School of Management. She had also attained her Associate Certified Coach designation through the International Coach Federation.

Dave Elgin retired in 2015 as the Public Works Director/City Engineer for the City of Cedar Rapids. He was responsible for Public Works Department including Street Maintenance, Sewer Maintenance, Forestry, Engineering Planning, Design, Construction and Administration, Traffic Engineering and Traffic Signal Maintenance.

Dave had more than 35 years of civil engineering experience in municipal and general civil engineering practice including industrial, commercial, institutional, and municipal design practice. Over 15 years experience with the City of Cedar Rapids as Water Utility Engineering Manager and City Engineer.

Dave received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and was a licensed Professional Engineer in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada and a licensed Land Surveyor in both Iowa and Wisconsin.

Jerry received a BS Degree at Iowa State University in 1982 in Industrial Education/Occupational Safety & Health. He worked 7 years as a Compliance Officer/Discrimination Officer for the Iowa Division of Labor Services before becoming a Loss Control Representative for Preferred Risk Insurance Companies. He then spent the following two years in various safety and security positions with Pirelli-Armstrong Tire Corporation,including the development and implementation of all their supervisor and employee health and safety training programs. In 1993, Jerry joined the Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa their Director of Safety, assisting all ABC members with regulatory compliance activities.

Since 1995, Jerry has been the owner of his own consulting firm, Occupational Safety Consultants in Des Moines provides safety and health services to various local agencies, along with industrial, construction and educational institutions throughout the United States.

Scott C. Marler is the Environmental Resources Manager for the Iowa Department of Transportation, Ames, Iowa. He has over 15 years of natural resources experience related to wetland assessment, wetland delineation, wetland mitigation, wetland biology, plant identification, plant ecology, vegetation analysis, habitat assessment/management, stream assessment, and threatened/endangered species. He has directed and coordinated several research projects evaluating the ecological effectiveness of DOT mitigation efforts, as well as assessing regional interest in mitigation banking. He has specialized experience in wetland permitting and mitigation for Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and often works directly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US EPA and other public and private entities on environmental-related issues.

Mary Kay Solberg is an Environmental Specialist Senior for the Iowa Department of Transportation, Ames, Iowa. She has 20 years of experience in environmental regulatory compliance. She assists DOT facilities, statewide, with environmental issues related to: underground storage tanks, contaminated sites, wastewater, air quality, waste disposal, storm water, spill prevention, drainage and erosion problems, drinking water, and recycling. She is a member of the State Brownfield Advisory Committee and the Governor’s Green Advisory Committee.


Ben McAlister, P.E. is a Principal Engineer with the City of West Des Moines Department of Public Works.  His responsibilities include stormwater compliance, flood control, and oversight of operation and maintenance of the City’s storm sewer system.

Ben has over 10 years of experience in stormwater and transportation engineering including modeling, analysis, design, and construction.


John Joiner graduated from Iowa State University in 1990 with a BS in Civil Engineering. He worked as a Transportation Engineer with AE Com for three years. He has been with the City of Ames since 1993 and has been the Public Works Director since 2005.

Tom McDonald graduated from Iowa State University in 1964 with a degree in Civil Engineering.

After his graduation from ISU, Tom worked for the Iowa DOT in various capacities, including District and Developmental Engineer, until his retirement in January 1998. That same month, he went to work for ISU in the Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE), now the Institute for Transportation (InTrans) where he was employed at the time of his death in 2013.

Other Institute course(s)
Public Works Operations and Maintenance

Program Manager; Institute for Transportation, Iowa State University (retired)

Bob Sperry was the Program Manager at the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa from 2008 to 2014, when he retired. He was formerly a County Engineer in three different Iowa counties for more than 30 years. His efforts with InTrans included serving as a “Local Roads Safety Liaison” which involved direct interactions with local/municipal public works agencies to make them aware of the many safety tools, software and training programs as well as funding opportunities available to them from various sources including the Iowa Department of Transportation and InTrans. In addition to his efforts on safety outreach and education activities, Bob also assisted in several other research projects that involved state and local governments.

Other Institute course(s)
Resource Management Skills
Basic Management Skills