The Department of Public Works (DPW) is the first Burning Man presence on the Black Rock desert each year, and it is the last Burning Man presence after the event. DPW dedicates weeks of hard work to the planning and construction of Black Rock City’s public infrastructure, along with many of the other projects that help to make the city the miracle of transience that it is. To ensure that BRC truly is temporary, DPW works for weeks after the Man burns to restore the playa to the pristine condition that the first arrivals found.
In 2005, a member of the DPW Council departed. Ada Chester helped to make DPW into the department it is today, and the loss of her energy and input was felt. This departure forced a difficult adjustment, especially coming during heavy production 3 months before the 2005 event. The remaining DPW Council members responded with extra effort, and added the Nevada Properties Manager Dave “Super Dave” Pedroli to their council.
In 2005, DPW continued driving Integrated Plan meetings with the other departments that need services or equipment. These meetings went well and have become important to the schedule for DPW resources. The Integrated Plan meetings resulted in a comprehensive chart that details who needs what when.This information feeds decisions of the DPW Logistics team about what will be necessary for the coming year’s event. A detailed listing of expectations of DPW is extremely helpful both for DPW management and for the other departments, as well. The IP meetings took on a more formal character in 2005, and the trend is expected to continue in 2006.
Once again, the little town of Gerlach, Nevada was host to the DPW. Staff and the volunteer crew lived, worked, and played there. As the department’s presence in Gerlach has increased, more energy has focused on managing the Burning Man Nevada properties. These properties consist of Black Rock Station, a work ranch situated in the Hualapai Valley a few miles beyond the event site on Route 34, business offices, and the Black Rock Saloon, also in Gerlach. Without these properties, DPW would struggle to complete the task of building Black Rock City.
DPW lived in the town of Gerlach for the second year in 2005, and therefore the adjustment appears to have come about with less resistance. It has been a major shift from the previous, relatively care-free home out on the work ranch. Living in town means that DPW is a highly visible presence. The department can still let its freak flag fly, but members need to look out for each other and let friends know when to furl those flags. The 2005 crew took this responsibility very seriously, and these efforts contribute to the department’s amicable relationship with the town of Gerlach.
The efforts to professionalize the crew, request increased personal and departmental accountability while also maintaining a fun, “git ‘er done” work ethic have begun to bear fruit. DPW had one of the best years in its history during 2005. More positive feedback came from other departments than ever before. This progress occurred thanks in part to strong Council leadership determined to achieve the Board vision for the DPW, but also to the focus and determination of returning managers, crew and enthusiastic new blood. The core of what the DPW does lies in the blood, sweat and tears of the crew. Morale was higher than in the past, despite the typical number of difficulties and challenges; an attitude of professionalism and pride defined the DPW team in 2005 as never before.
Matt “HazMatt” Morgan