York Region’s new commissioner of public works is an award-winning engineer credited with helping position the region as a leader in many areas, including a plan described as being at the “forefront of waste prevention” in the country.
In addition to her work on the SM4RT Living Master Plan, Laura McDowell has worked on the Durham York Energy Centre, the first energy-from-waste facility approved in the province in more than 20 years, and the Transit and Corporate Fleet Electrification, which is contributing to the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2051.
McDowell has held various leadership positions since joining York Region in 1998, the most recent of which was general manager of Operations and Services, Public Works.
“Ms. McDowell has more than 30 years of experience in leading and managing large, complex, capital and operating contracts,” says York Region CEO Wayne Emmerson. “The winning combination of her knowledge and experience is what we need to deliver today and prepare for the future.”
She earned a degree in engineering from the University of Guelph and completed York University’s Master’s in Municipal Leadership Certificate Program.
McDowell was awarded the Public Works Leader of the Year by the Ontario Public Works Association in 2020.
She replaces Erin Mahoney, who was appointed York Region CAO last fall. “Laura is committed to ambitious results and I am confident she will lead the Public Works team in continuing to deliver on the important programs and services our residents deserve and expect,” Mahoney says . “There are many priorities ahead of us and I look forward to Laura’s leadership and innovativeness in achieving them.”
The commissioner of public works reports directly to the CAO and is responsible for providing strategic direction and overall leadership of the Public Works department, which includes Operations and Services and Capital Infrastructure Services. The portfolio provides oversight for water and wastewater facilities, waste management, natural heritage and forestry services, York Region Transit, road user safety, transportation systems and traffic operations.
Photo: York Region commissioner of public works Laura McDowell.