January 10, 2012 > Bob Bauman
By Simon Wong
Dr. Robert Bauman, Director of Public Works for the City of Hayward, retired on December 22, 2011. His 20 years with the city constitute a second career during which there have been many challenges and rewards.
A native of Sayreville, northern New Jersey, Bauman realized he had a facility for mathematics and science at an early age and knew he wanted to become an engineer; he maintains, modestly, that language is something he found difficult. After high school, he applied to and was selected for the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, where he spent four enjoyable years as a cadet. Upon graduation in 1970, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers. According to Bauman, the "West Point experience" is a story in itself.
In 1970, the Vietnam War was still in progress; consequently, all of the graduating classes were sent to Airborne School (aka Jump School) for basic paratrooper training and to Ranger School which is a combat leadership course oriented towards small-unit tactics and has been described as the "toughest combat course in the world" and "the most physically and mentally demanding leadership school the US Army has to offer." Bauman recalls both as "interesting" with a wry smile.
He then attended the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Belvoir as a newly-commissioned officer in the Corps of Engineers. On completion, he was posted to Korea for 13 months with an engineer construction battalion. During this time, he learned that aviators have a certain standing. He and his colleagues spent much time at an airfield where they lived under canvas for 10 months on one side of the facility while army aviators occupied block buildings on the other. He notes that this standing also holds true in civilian life.
Graduating from West Point in the top five percent of his class, Bauman was eligible to attend graduate school when he elected to do so. On return from Korea, he earned his Masters degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed preparatory work for a doctorate. He considers himself fortunate to have been a salaried officer, unlike many of his fellow students, during the two-year course.
He then embarked on the first of two three-year tours in Darmstadt, Germany, as part of a combat engineer battalion. On this tour, he met his wife who taught in Department of Defense schools. They married, returned to Fort Belvoir, thence to West Point's Engineering Department where he taught the engineering curriculum. By his second year, he was teaching the Honors Tutorial Course to a very small group of the brightest cadets; this entailed one-on-one, accelerated instruction in several engineering courses and recital by his tutees to demonstrate their learning. Bauman himself had received the same tuition as a cadet. The following year, he completed his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in the Dynamics of Structures.
"The Corps of Engineers effectively consists of two parts. One looks military and the other, civilian. It is the only Department of Defense organization with such a dual function. Following the War of Independence, the country's leaders envisioned a trained organization to undertake both military and civil engineering projects and, in 1802, Congress tasked the Corps of Engineers with establishment of a military academy at West Point to train in military and technical sciences," explained Bauman.
"As the nation and its public works functions grew, the Chief of Engineers created divisions and district offices across the country to perform the work. Each division and district had a military commander and was staffed mostly by civilian engineers. Today, there are eight divisions and 40 districts," he added.
After teaching at West Point, Bauman was assigned to the US Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, which was associated with the Panama Control Zone. He visited the canal and its defenses several times in connection with US administration of the facility and with its transfer, initiated by the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaty, to Panamanian control.
His second tour in Darmstadt was as Director of Engineering and Housing, or the public works director for the military community. After three good years, he was posted to the US Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District, the largest district within the Corps of Engineers. As one of two Deputy Commanders, he was responsible for military design and construction in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The other was responsible for civilian works. During this time, Lt. Colonel Bauman was also involved with hearings for base closures, including the Presidio of San Francisco and Fort Ord. After 21 years, he retired from the US Army and embarked on a second career.
He and his wife remained in California because of the temperate climate and their son had been born at Mather Air Force Base, Sacramento, when they returned from Germany. They moved to Castro Valley when Bauman was appointed as Deputy Director of Public Works and City Engineer for the City of Hayward; he became Director of Public Works in 2005.
Bauman's military assignments required results. He describes himself as someone who "enjoys getting things done" and this ethos has stood the City of Hayward in good stead.
There were many interesting challenges, such as the development of Stonebrae, Eden Shores and transportation issues. Although his military background contained little formal training in transportation matters, he soon became the city's expert.
One of the biggest challenges was the Route 238 By-Pass. Bauman's job was to move the project forward within the parameters of Caltrans' environmental clearance, proposed construction by Caltrans and the conditions associated with Measure B half-cent transportation sales tax funding from the Alameda County Transportation Authority. He understood the need to deal effectively with Caltrans. However, a court eventually ruled Measure B monies could not be used; moreover, the project was already several decades old and public opinion had changed. Council decided not to proceed with the By-Pass project.
Without the By-Pass or the possibility of creating another freeway, the city worked hard on alternatives and their impacts, such as tunneling beneath Foothill Boulevard or creating a wide, multi-lane thoroughfare through the city, to move traffic and relieve congestion.
"In the end, we decided upon the loop. First, traffic-wise, it will be an improvement. Second, this option enables us to improve lighting, pedestrian access and the aesthetics," said Bauman. "The Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project is under way."
There have been other major projects, such as the $55M-upgrade to the sewage treatment plant which employed a very competent construction contractor; according to Bauman, the city's interests must always be protected.
The I-880/SR 92 Interchange Project, which was completed in early October 2011, had a long history and required much effort to solve traffic problems and avoid destruction of local neighborhoods. Despite the city's public outreach, a citizens' advisory committee and a proposed solution, Caltrans intended to proceed with its own much more expensive design which would have impacted residents adversely. Council made clear its position and Caltrans delivered what Hayward wanted. For Bauman, this was a proud moment and a significant accomplishment and it is rewarding to see greatly improved mobility of people and goods.
"Traffic is a problem, especially in the Bay Area and for Hayward, so we do what we can. Those are some of the bigger things with which I've been involved and I enjoyed all of them," he stated.
"Engineering is about problem-solving. There are many types of engineers - civil, mechanical, electrical, computer, etc. All address different challenges and many become public servants, such as members of the Corps of Engineers. During war, civilian engineers often find themselves building things for the greater good. Anyone contemplating an engineering career should 'enjoy getting things done.'
"Attend a good school and ensure the coursework covers a broad spectrum of civil engineering. One can specialize in aspects, such as detailed design or construction management. Students should consider internships while at university to obtain some experience. Many cities and their engineers are service-oriented; the private sector offers opportunities associated with specific projects and less contact with the public," advises Bauman.
"Public Works is an excellent profession. Working in the public sector is an excellent way to help one's fellow citizens. It's tremendously satisfying when you accomplish things for others. There should be an intrinsic desire to do so. The City of Hayward is a full-service city with a broad range of things for which Public Works is responsible, e.g. Hayward Executive Airport, sewer, water, waste water treatment, garbage, and so on. There are variety, challenges and rewards other than a pay check. Right now, there is an entirely new facet of engineering concerned with the environment.
"Public perception of Public Works varies between cities. In Hayward, the community has a greater understanding of what we do because of the excellent Neighborhood Partnership Program which helps inform residents of the city's business and keeps Council and staff abreast of citizens' views. Some people say 'Thank You.' What more could one ask? Even when you couldn't provide what they wanted but had the chance to listen to their concerns, respond and explain, people understand. Ideally, the public should not just demand but be willing to listen, note the restrictions and, hopefully, better understand what we do and why," concluded Bauman.
Although his son, an aerospace engineer, followed in his father's footsteps as an Eagle Scout six years ago, Bauman remains involved with Boy Scout Troop 722 in Castro Valley and looks forward to devoting more time as Treasurer and assisting with summer camp with the other parents. He holds the Boy Scout movement in high regard. He left New Jersey for the first time in 1964 when he travelled by bus to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico; the experience left a life-long impression. He and his wife also plan to ski and look forward to more travel.