State Spotlight: Missouri

Tracy Schloss
GIS | Office of Geospatial Information, MO Office of Administration

Tony Spicci
Resource Science GIS Supervisor, MO Department of Conservation (MDC)

Interviewed by Tim Bohn and Tim Donze | July 8, 2019

A move by Missouri a few years ago to consolidate GIS professionals into a single office has been a game changer for the state, says Tracy Schloss, who heads up the Geospatial Information office. Her office is within the Information Technology Services Division, which is part of the Office of Administration that manages all the ‘business of government’ like human resources, facilities management, and budget and planning. With Missouri’s consolidated IT structure, her office supports 14 of 16 executive agencies.

“Looking at GIS work through the lens of an IT project has changed how we approach our work,” Schloss says. “Requests now come to us in the form of a business request for a state agency, complete with funding to pay for our time. We have learned a lot about defining the scope of a project, and getting the requests in writing and starting to think about return on investment. This approach has saved us many times from the ‘scope creep’ that used to occur in the past when we started doing any GIS for someone. It means we don’t work on projects, though, just because they are ‘good for the state.’ We have to have that business partner with funding before beginning anything.”

NSGIC Board Member, MDC Resource Science GIS Supervisor Tony Spicci says the biggest change his state has seen over the past few decades is related to accessibility.

“In the past,” says Spicci, “GIS was for big users, upper levels folks hired specifically to do GIS. But the threshold has changed to where people at all levels are able to make contributions. It’s no longer for the elite, it’s now for the masses.”

One recent success story showcasing this development is the implementation of GIS in Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency. Not only is GIS strongly supported at the state level, but there’s an interface accessible to first responders at the local level, as well.

With the flooding Missouri experienced this spring, though it was devastating, says Schloss, “We also knew we’d done absolutely everything we could ahead of time to be prepared to share data using GIS. We didn’t have to scramble or rethink how we presented data. We simply referenced people to the interface we already had in place.”

Missouri was an early adopter of GIS, and through coordination, the state has been able to successfully implement a clearinghouse and advisory council.

Statewide GIS coordination, however, is challenged by Missouri’s configuration as a home rule state. That means, says Schloss, “Many of the activities that might be managed and funded at the state level happen at a more local level, and sometimes not at all.”

For example, there is no standardized schema for parcels and legislation, in fact, allows local governments to both sell and license their GIS data, even to other governmental entities. The same issue impairs the development of the statewide spatial data infrastructure.

When it comes to a statewide imagery plan, Schloss says the Office of Geospatial Information “keeps an ear out for various levels of governments’ requests for updated imagery.”

“When imagery is flown, it has been done collaboratively, with multiple business partners contributing funds to the project. Entities can take advantage of a ‘buy up’ option to collect additional data, which may include 3D deliverables such as lidar. Smaller ad hoc projects can also be completed, taking advantage of the existing contract mechanism.” In the past, says Schloss, “the decision to fly our own imagery has been based on other federal projects, such as NAIP.”

Because of the size of the state, it takes two flying seasons to fly the leaf-off imagery generally requested by participants. The last imagery was completed in 2016. Prior to that, the last state-sponsored flight was in 2009. More frequent updates have been hampered by lack of funding contributions from business partners.

Schloss and Spicci are each 30-year veterans in the GIS field, starting out in the very early days of GIS.

With a degree in cartography and map technology, Schloss went to work for a photogrammetric firm right out of college. They were just branching into GIS consulting work, mostly for cities and counties in Missouri and Kansas, and needed someone who could learn the technology, and get those local communities started on their very first GIS systems, she says.

Spicci started his career as a cartographic intern for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 1989. Three years later, he made the transition to his current role with the State of Missouri.

Spicci attended his first NSGIC conference in 1997 and has stayed actively involved. Learning about challenges and successes in other states has helped him implement growth in his own organization. “NSGIC is all about relationships and knowledge,” says Spicci, “especially learning about new opportunities.”

In his spare time, Spicci officiates high school and college football with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and is a lead pyrotechnician for J&M Displays. He is also a member of the Boone County Fire Protection District and Missouri Task Force 1.

Schloss is an avid reader, who also enjoys camping and canoeing, and considers herself an expert knitter.

To learn more about GIS in Missouri, visit the Missouri GIS Advisory Council, the GIS Clearinghouse, and the Office of Geospatial Information.


Read more State Spotlights