State Spotlights


Washington

Joanne Markert
State GIS Coordinator, WaTech Solutions, 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 the WaTech Solutions, 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. 

 
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Missouri

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

Tony Spicci
Resources 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.”

 
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Florida

Ekaterina Fitos
State Geospatial Information Officer

Interviewed by Tim Bohn | November 13, 2018

Florida is a big, complex state, said GIO Ekaterina Fitos, and the key to coordinating GIS across the state is through a collaborative enterprise approach with GIS focused work groups and engagement of stakeholders.

Just ten months into the job as Florida’s first GIO, Fitos said she is continuing to assess Florida’s statewide spatial data infrastructure. There are plenty of success stories, she said, citing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s mobile applications one of which assists with notifying the public about state park closures during disasters (Figure 1), the GATOR web application by the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) (Figure 2), and an online system to monitor sea turtles developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) (Figure 3) .

 
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Kentucky

Kent Anness
GIS Manager, Kentucky Office of Technology

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson | April 3, 2019

Kentucky GIS Manager Kent Anness has been working in GIS for 30 years and state government for 20 years. Anness got his start in cartography and initially used a scribe tool and darkroom methods for producing map compilations.

Anness says that over the past 20 years, not only has the technology grown, but the accessibility of enterprise GIS has grown as well, allowing for an increased number of users within state government. According to Anness, newer generations see even greater value in the technology.

The biggest success related to GIS in Kentucky, says Anness, is the completion of statewide LiDAR coverage via the KyFromAbove program.

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Massachusetts

Neil MacGaffey
Director, MassGIS

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson | January 16, 2019

In his 18 years of working in state government, Massachusetts’ GIS Director Neil MacGaffey said he has seen the “steady push to a larger and larger scale of mapping. Resolution of all data has improved. Statewide mapping of parcels, addresses, and structures now exists and is a game changer.”

The state completed standardized statewide parcel mapping in 2013. 

“The availability of this information statewide has had an extraordinary impact across a broad spectrum of uses,” MacGaffey said. “There are terrific stories on what the availability of this data has enabled. Parcel data is the single most popular data set, whether accessed via download from the MassGIS website or through web mapping services.”

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Minnesota

Dan Ross
GIO, Chief Business Technical Officer and CIO, Pollution Control

Interviewed by Tim Bohn and Tim Donze | October 22, 2018

Minnesota GIO Dan Ross has spent 23 years in state government if you include the three years he spent as a system administrator and adjunct professor teaching GIS at St. Cloud State. In that time, he has seen GIS go from highly collaborative to falling off, and now in resurgence with both data sharing and a standards development.

Five years ago, said Ross, there were no statewide parcels, centerlines with address ranges, addresses or standards to support those data layers. The state “is in much better shape now,” he said. “The community has come together and renewed the collaboration.”

In that time, Ross spearheaded an effort to convince the Minnesota legislature that taxpayers were paying for data three to five times over because of the tremendous duplication of efforts. The efforts resulted in a law that mandated government-to-government sharing of data at no cost. In addition, the Minnesota Geospatial Commons was established. The Geospatial Commons - a collaborative place for users and publishers of geospatial resources about Minnesota - has won multiple national awards. The state’s spatial data infrastructure currently contains more than 750 layers, with about 194 web services available for access.

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New Jersey

Andy Rowan
Geographic Information Officer, NJ Office of Information Technology

Interviewed by Sheila Steffenson | March 1, 2019

New Jersey Geographic Information Officer Andy Rowan says that after 13 years in state government, “the biggest challenge remains a gap in awareness outside of the state’s GIS community regarding the capabilities of GIS technology.” Awareness and education can be obstacles in taking any state GIS program to the next level.

Rowan’s career in GIS started when he was a junior staff member at a small environmental consulting firm. When one of the firm’s senior scientists became convinced GIS should be brought in, earth scientist Rowan -- with the most bandwidth -- was tapped to take it on. The firm sent him to training and he never looked back.

In addition to his role as the state’s GIO, Rowan recently served two years as Deputy Chief Technology Officer. During his time in state government, he has witnessed a shift in focus from building new GIS data to maintaining the data that exists. “There is a relentless march towards accuracy improvement,” says Rowan.

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Utah

Matt Peters
Automated Geographic Reference Center Director

Interviewed by Tim Bohn | November 28, 2018

For Utah GIO Matt Peters, successful statewide GIS coordination is all about communicating a vision and helping everyone speak the same language. It takes strategy and finesse, he said, to “make sure the tide raises all boats.”

Helping stakeholders embrace that vision means focusing on the data rather than getting caught up in the technology. “Data is the foundation and is fundamental to analysis,” he said. “For example, address ranges affect geocoding, so if the quality is not there, nothing moves forward. Today … improved, polished data [is available] for use in web services. Point-in-polygon matching is also more accurate.”

In fact, said Peters, the goal is that “the map is an afterthought [because] it’s all about the data. Used data gets better.”

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