State Spotlight: Washington

Joanne Markert
State GIS Coordinator, WaTech, Office of the Chief Information Officer / Geospatial Program Office

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson | August 14, 2019

Washington State GIS Coordinator Joanne Markert has been working in GIS for almost 25 years. Markert got her start in natural resources and planning and fell in love with GIS when she realized it helped figure out where the resources were. She hasn’t looked back since. 

Markert has been in her current position with Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech), Office of the Chief Information Officer / Geospatial Program Office for a little over two years now. She says “GIS is always evolving. Even in my very short time with the state, we have streamlined data sharing by consolidating individual agency sites into a single statewide open data site.  Our next project will be sharing data among agencies using portal-to-portal technologies. Anything that reduces redundancy is a priority.”

When asked to share about the greatest success story related to GIS in Washington, Markert said there are too many to count. WAGIC (Washington Geographic Information Council) Executive Committee identifies the accomplishments for the past year.  For 2018-2019, the top success is Washington’s collaborative leadership approach and increased communication among state GIS organizations. 

A few examples she named include: “Abby Gleason from the Department of Natural Resources, leads the charge for developing our state lidar plan while Jordyn Mitchell from the Department of Transportation lead our state efforts to develop a notification dashboard for state agencies so that we know when agencies are making changes to their datasets, this assists greatly in increasing the reliability of the data and ability to plan for changes. Don Hulst from Washington State University developed a one-page flyer (based on the NSGIC GIS Program flyer) that is shared with our agricultural community to take advantage of GIS technologies.  And on and on." Markert went on to say that "There are too many examples to share in a single article. Since the Geospatial Program Office consists of just me, part of my job is to support and encourage these efforts so that we have GIS leaders and leadership throughout the state enterprise using a coordinated and strategic approach.”

Another notable success within GIS in Washington is the great strides they have made with state and county partnerships. Those partnerships have “included our state’s conversion to NG9-1-1 and a statewide imagery consortium.  Both of these efforts assist with the digital divide (rural vs urban) that exists in our state for GIS data and resources” says Markert. 

Markert recognizes the challenge states face with funding as funding is her number one issue within GIS in Washington. She believes that messaging GIS to decision-makers to sustain or grow funding and having enough time for coordination efforts is an obstacle to Washington’s success since agency GIS managers already have full-time jobs. She goes on to say “we have a dedicated, talented group of GIS professionals in Washington and the only limitation (besides funding), will be our imaginations.”

She believes that convincing state government leadership of the exceptional return on investment with GIS programs is also a challenge for GIS across the country.  

Staying current on what other states are doing and how they are overcoming challenges is, according to Markert, the most valuable aspect of NSGIC membership. “It’s also helpful to know that there are resources available, Washington has taken advantage of the NSGIC  Lidar Interest Group as well as using the NSGIC flyers as a template for Washington.” 

When it comes to what she enjoys most about her job as state GIS coordinator, “it’s mostly about the people,” she said. She’s a problem-solver at heart, and her role fuses innovation and collaboration. 

On a personal note, Markert enjoys hanging out with her family, traveling and reading. 

To learn more about GIS in Washington, visit the Washington Geospatial Open Data Portal.


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