Discussion Thread

Must I be from the local area to work in an agency there?

  • 1.  Must I be from the local area to work in an agency there?

    Posted 02-16-2021 10:19 AM

    Civil engineers who shared their experience and advice in “Explore Engineering Careers in Public Agencies” responded to 6 questions we didn’t get to during the live roundtable discussion.  Here are their answers to the fifth question in this series of posts: 

    Today’s question:  How important is it to be from the local area if you want to work for a local agency?  (Answers are based on individual experiences and are not necessarily representative of practices at all public agencies.)

    Greg DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S., Pres.13.ASCE
    Retired CEO from Tualatin Valley Water District (OR)
    If you mean must you live in the community you work for, it depends.  I worked in a large metro area for my public works career, but never lived in the community I was working for.  I did not find it to be too practical as I changed jobs to move ten miles from one area to another.  It would be expensive and did not make much sense.  However, I was a part of those communities I worked for.  I participated in outside work activities in those communities.  I shopped there, most often buying my car there.  I donated to the community.  Given the number of night meetings I had as a public works director, I spent a great deal of time in those communities.  The only thing I did not do was pay taxes to that community.  That said, some communities require you to live in the city you work in. 

    Kristina Swallow, P.E., Pres.18.ASCE
    Director, Nevada Department of Transportation
    For the teams I’ve worked for, it is not that important.  What is important is the ability to learn, grow, connect with the stakeholders, and be willing to listen to their needs.  If you are not local, there may be a steeper learning curve as you get to know the area and the stakeholders but that isn’t a disqualifier. 

    Brian Phan, P.E., M.ASCE
    Transportation Engineering Associate, Los Angeles Department of Transportation – California
    Although it’s not a requirement, living in the local area does help, as you are familiar with the geographic area.  Also, many local universities develop reputations with local agencies and engineering companies, which helps with recruitment. 

    Jarred Jones, P.E., M.ASCE
    Executive Director, North Charleston (SC) Sewer District
    I do not think it is important, and it would not have any bearing on our hiring process. 

    Edith Martinez-Guerra, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Research Environmental Engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers- Engineer Research and Development Center
    I don’t think that is an important factor.  If you are willing to relocate, you could find assistance with that.

    If you missed our live session watch the recording posted on the Career Discovery web page https://collaborate.asce.org/covid-19/career-discovery.  Also register there for future roundtable sessions exploring civil engineering careers in consulting, education, construction, and industry – and bring your questions for our panelists!

    Becky Waldrup P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Manager, Professional Activities
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    Reston VA