Woman directors take the wheel
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:51AM
Race car driver Danica Patrick may have made sports history by winning the pole position at the Daytona 500. Yet, when snow falls on the North Shore, two women are among the first to hit the streets behind the wheel of a plow. Donna Jakubowski, director of Wilmette Public Works, and Suzette Robinson, Evanston’s public works director are among the few females in their position, making them industry and national role models. Jakubowski lives in Downers Grove. Robinson, a nearly four-year Glenview resident, has two children, Kayla, 15, a Winnetka North Shore Country Day School sophomore, and Matthew, 22, an Evanston equipment operator.
Q. Do you see yourselves as inspirations?
A. Jakubowski: We definitely do not bump into a lot of women director of public works, but I think the number is increasing. For myself, it started just when I went to college and took up civil engineering. It was quite often that I would find myself the only female in a class. So I’m kind of used to it after so many years.
A. Robinson: It’s pretty much the same except I took a science path versus engineering and found myself working at airports, eventually making a complete switch over to public works, but same scenario. Mostly the only woman in the class and also in the facilities, and some of that is starting to change too, even in terms of the job atmosphere. But, we’re still, I think, a minority at the top, as well as through the ranks ...
Q. So you’re both setting a standard, correct?
A. Robinson: Well, I feel unique. Shortly after coming to Evanston and finding out that Donna was right next door, I thought, ‘Wow, this is unheard of,’ to be a public works director. Then to find out there was somebody next door that could serve as a mentor to me, who has been around in the industry longer than I have from the civil engineering aspect, so that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing, so it does help. She’s been an inspiration to me for sure.
A. Jakubowski: Well, I’ve been with Wilmette now for 29 years and for the last 15, I have been the director of public works.
Q. Ever get behind the wheel of a snow plow?
A. Jakubowski: Oh, all of the time, all of the time. Pretty much almost every storm I’ll try to get out for a while, at least. We see a difference definitely (in snow accumulation) from the east side to the west side. We have Lake Michigan, which can always turn on the snow, the lake effect.
A. Robinson: Oh definitely. Have to. We recently had a situation with the lake effect snow where we had five inches on one side of town and one inch (on the other). The lakefront definitely gives us additional challenges that most other cities don’t have to deal with~.