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NSGIC Announces New Board Members; Arizona’s Jenna Leveille Takes Over as President

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) announces the election of new members to its Board of Directors, as well as the full slate of officers and board members for the 2020 - 2021 term.

Jenna Leveille (AZ) makes the move from President-Elect to assume the presidency of NSGIC, taking the reins from Frank Winters (NY). Jenna is Arizona’s Deputy State Cartographer, where she coordinates, provides leadership, facilitates the Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC) and coordinates statewide GIS initiatives. Her contributions to AGIC include providing administrative support, facilitating all AGIC Council and Committee meetings and activities, serving as a Co-chair to four AGIC technical committees and managing AZGeo, Arizona’s State Geospatial Data Portal. Notable activities include:

  • Modernization and governance of AZGeo
  • Increasing AGIC Committee and Work Group participation and the formation of several new groups in the past year focused on improving Arizona’s geospatial maturity
  • Increasing AGIC visibility and GIS education among Arizona government executives
  • Leading statewide lidar acquisition efforts in Arizona

Graduating with honors from Oregon State University, Jenna has been learning, practicing, and teaching GIS for almost 20 years. She has extensive experience in data acquisition, database management, GIS user training, and project management. She served as the state data liaison for the Arizona Land Resource Information System (ALRIS) for over ten years. In addition to her role as NSGIC President, Jenna currently serves on the Arizona Geographic Information Council and the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names.

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NSGIC Announces New Board Members; New York State’s Frank Winters takes over as President

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) announces the appointment of five new members to its Board of Directors, as well as the full slate of officers and board members for the 2020 - 2021 term.

Frank Winters (NY) makes the move from President-Elect to assume the presidency of NSGIC, taking the reins from Karen Rogers (WY). Frank is the Executive Director of the New York State Geospatial Advisory Committee. Frank has a Master of Science in Geography from the University of Idaho and has been involved with GIS in New York State government for 29 years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created new grand challenges for our nation and highlighted the need for continued coordination of and investment in our geospatial data, technologies, and workforce,” said new NSGIC President Frank Winters. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve our NSGIC family as president. I am confident that the nation’s geospatial community will play an even more impactful role in the challenges that lie ahead.”

Jenna Leveille (AZ) has been elected President-Elect to the 2020-21 Board of Directors. An Oregon State University graduate, and Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) employee of twelve years, Jenna has more than 15 years of GIS experience. She is currently a Senior GIS Analyst and project leader for the Arizona State Land Department. Jenna has served as the Arizona State Representative to NSGIC since 2017.

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“Sometimes life drops lessons in your lap without your lifting a finger. Serendipity, they call it.”
~ Charlton Heston

A phrase I hear frequently is, “All things happen for a reason”. If you’re like me, half the time you hear that you want to throat punch the person who said it to you. A quarter of the time, you couldn’t agree more and knew it would work out that way, and another quarter of the time you probably wonder one way or the other. Regardless, at some point we are all struck with the idea of crazy coincidence and fortunate circumstance; on the other side of the coin we’re dealt with raw deals that make us scratch our heads and wonder, with a lesson learned months (or years) down the road.

In my early days when I was a green newbie with the BLM, an old-timer told me that the federal planning process is circular; she meant that good, productive ideas had their time, fell out of fashion, and then came back in a few years as the latest and greatest idea. Meanwhile, the idea never really made it that far or became ubiquitous or successful. Over the years, I have observed this to be true both in federal and state government. Holding on to this paradigm, we never get anywhere as it’s one step forward, two steps back. Unless we study and consult history, we are bound to repeat mistakes of the past.

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NSGIC Announces New Board Members; Wyoming’s Karen Rogers takes over as President

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) is proud to announce the appointment of five new members to its Board of Directors, as well as the full slate of officers and board members for the 2019 - 2020 term. Joining the Board of Directors are Karen Rogers (WY), Frank Winters (NY), Tim Johnson (NC), Jenna Leville (AZ), and Neil MacGaffey (MA).

Karen Rogers makes the move from President-Elect to the new President of NSGIC, taking the reign from Dan Ross (MN). Karen is a Habitat Protection Analyst for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. She got her start in GIS as an archaeologist with the Pinedale BLM 20 years ago. As a certified GIS professional, she currently serves as the President of WyGEO and has been on the Board of Directors of NSGIC for the last 5 years.

"The seismic advances in technology over the next few years are positioning our organization to drive enormous geospatial innovation within the states and at the federal level,” said new NSGIC President Karen Rogers. “I’m honored to take the helm of an organization with the talent, enthusiasm and professionalism of NSGIC. Together with the board, our staff and industry partners, we’ll chart a path for true innovation and technological change that will enable our policymakers to deliver more efficient and effective government within the states and across our country.”

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GeoWomen Growing - We Need You

NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council) launched the GeoWomen initiative a couple of years ago. Recently MAPPS (the U.S. national association of firms in the surveying, spatial data, and geographic information field) joined NSGIC to partner on GeoWomen.

And now we need your perspective as we work together to create meaningful programs and build an inclusive GeoWomen community with the goal of attracting more women into GIS careers and promoting women's leadership in both the public and private sectors.

We're asking you to take a few minutes to a) complete this brief survey yourself and b) share this message with other women in your organization to get their perspectives, as well. All information will be anonymized. Our deadline is May 24, 2019. Thank you for your time and insights.

Licensed Commercial Imagery as an Enterprise Resource: The Terms Matter!

“Let’s get everyone working on the same map!”

This is a compelling, succinct goal that speaks to the value of taking an ‘enterprise-wide approach’ to acquiring GIS data resources, including high-resolution aerial photography. It’s a safe bet that the “on the same map” argument was part of the advocacy efforts of states that have successfully sought and received support to build public domain imagery programs.

“On the same map” is also a very relevant objective for states or regions (or even nations) considering a licensed imagery purchase from the emerging market of commercial aerial products. While public domain programs are a great goal, in recent years there has been more growth in the adoption of statewide licensed programs, perhaps because of lower, but not perfectly comparable costs. In a mature geospatial world, imagery is probably an open, public domain resource, but if you’re not there yet, a licensed product could be a good fit.

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'Imagery for the Nation' as Timely as Ever

Aerial photography is an incredibly valuable resource to a broad set of uses in the business, government, and research sectors. An aerial view, whether from a satellite or an airborne camera, provides excellent situational awareness, for among other things:

  • Responding to a crisis - like 911 centers coordinating response to everyday emergencies or coordination for wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes
  • Informing real-time consumer decisions and organizational operations - everything from tourism to package delivery
  • Planning for the future - like siting and designing new developments and transportation projects
  • Building map-based datasets of infrastructure and natural assets - to better inventory and analyze how urban and natural systems perform
  • Providing a historical record over time - for dispute resolution and understanding development and change patterns

While it is expensive to acquire, it is practically indisputable that the immense value of accessible, up-to-date, and high-resolution aerial photography dwarfs the costs to capture and distribute the imagery.

So what's the problem? In a nutshell, there's no national model in place to efficiently fund, collect, and provide access to this highly desirable resource, that - unlike most types of products - actually becomes more valuable the more it is put to use.

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NSGIC Hiring Membership & Meetings Coordinator

Come work for NSGIC! We are hiring a new Membership & Meetings Coordinator who will focus on the areas of membership, events management and administration. Familiarity with the geospatial community and association experience are especially helpful. View the job posting for more information and to submit your resume.


Nobel Prize winner George Stigler said “a transition period is a period between two transition periods.” After almost 17 years with Utah’s Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC), five of them as director, I am about to transition into a new role with a new organization.

Next week, I’ll hand over my key card to the Utah AGRC office, take a two week break, and then head down the street to the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the metropolitan planning organization for the Salt Lake - Ogden metro area. My new job is leading WFRC's section of GIS, data science and transportation modeling staff, in supporting mid- and long-term planning for infrastructure projects, transit, economic development, land use and air quality.

This change is bittersweet, for sure, for many reasons - I am leaving a job that I’ve loved and found fulfilling, with an outstanding team and colleagues across state and local government - and also because I will be passing along Utah's NSGIC State Rep torch (a la Minecraft) that has connected me to so much expertise and important personal and professional connections.

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NSGIC Welcomes New Staff Members

NSGIC recently announced the addition of two new staff members to the team: Bronwyn Walls as Communications Coordinator and Jamie Chesser as Geospatial Programs Manager.

bronwyn headshot

Bronwyn Walls - Communications Coordinator

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Happy Ada Lovelace Day - Celebrating Women in STEM

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

I first became aware of this celebration three years ago by happenstance when a friend of mine simply asked, "Are you doing anything special on Ada Lovelace Day?" I wasn't - I had no idea who Ada Lovelace was and what Ada Lovelace Day was about. Wikipedia quickly filled in the blanks.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (December 10, 1815 - November 27, 1852) was the only child of the poet Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Byron. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later. Ada's mother remained bitter at Lord Byron and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from following in her father’s footsteps.

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NSGIC 2017 Annual in Review

In case you missed the NSGIC 2017 Annual Conference, here are the highlights from my perspective. It was phenomenal (and exhausting at the same time) once again, and I thank all those who contributed their time and hard work to make it happen. (Members can log in to explore notes and presentation slides in the archives.)

Leadership Development Workshop

The primary takeaway from the Leadership Workshop on Monday is the triad ‘Mentor - Coach - Champion’. See an up and coming talent? Offer to mentor them. New to your career and looking for insights and help? Ask a trusted colleague to mentor you. Witness a meeting or conversation that could have gone better? Find a way to offer advice to coach and improve. Impressed with a person, product or outcome? Speak up and be their champion. However you choose to do it, don’t be afraid to step up and be a leader. That can take shape in a variety of ways and forms, so pick up your ball and run with it.>

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GWU Counting for Dollars, Census-Informed Federal Program Funds

At least a couple times a year, state GIS offices are apt to encounter some mention of the importance of the Census Bureau having the best possible GIS roads and address data from their state, as the Bureau prepares for its next decennial census count.

Click to open an interactive map of the Counting for Dollars dataThe argument goes like this...

  1. Better road and address data gives a state the best chance for the Bureau achieving a full count of its residents, and
  2. On a per capita basis, per year, billions of dollars in federal program funding are determined by formulas that use state population and other census-derived demographic data, so,
  3. There is a bit of a zero-sum-game at work, the fuller your state’s count of residents, the more of its rightful, equitable share will be received from these programs.

Last month, Professor Andrew Reamer of the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, published an analysis of 16 large federal programs that utilize Census-derived datasets to set state funding levels, with details on the methodology used, and (a drum roll please), specific data for each program and state. In the study, titled Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds, the per capita totals across the 16 programs that were examined were certainly not linear with respect to population, ranging from a high of $4,583 (DC) to a low of $1,086 (UT, what?!) with a national average of $1,838 (US).

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Massachusetts Chief Digital Officer to Keynote NSGIC 2017 Annual Conference

Holly St. Clair, chief digital officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, will deliver the keynote address to kick off the 2017 Annual Conference of the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) on September 26 in Providence, RI.

In ‘Integrating Data in Digital Services for State Government,’ St. Clair will explore the challenge of improving digital government services for constituents. “Ensuring that constituents have friction-free access to services and related information is essential to effective government,” says St. Clair. “How can we use data and analytics to improve the constituent experience? - how do we make every interaction with Massachusetts government simpler, faster, more meaningful, and wicked awesome?”

As the CDO of Massachusetts, St. Clair leads its Digital Services office, where she currently manages the reimagining and overhaul of the state’s website. St. Clair has a proven history of using data and technology in innovative ways that help people and their governments to interact to achieve better outcomes. She joined Massachusetts government initially to create the state’s first Data Office. Prior to joining the state, St. Clair served as the director of data services at the Boston-region Metropolitan Area Planning Council, overseeing the agency’s activities in the fields of data management, data analysis, research and public access to data. St. Clair pioneered the use of advanced decision support tools in metropolitan Boston, managing a variety of projects that use scenarios modeling, 3D environments, community indicators and innovative meeting formats to engage stakeholders in dialogue about policy choices.

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Null Island is No Place to Live

MZ Null Island Sticker

There’s no doubting that the fictional Null Island concept has lots of fans. Null Island stickers were a popular giveaway at this month’s FOSS4G conference in Boston and the island was referenced, just for fun, in the slides of several talks. Null Island even has its own Wikipedia page.

But you wouldn’t ever want to live there. In the real world, the only thing at Null Island’s location in the Atlantic — Latitude 0, Longitude 0 — may be a weather buoy. It sounds like a wet, cold, and lonely place.

Null Island makes for a great metaphor. It’s the geographic location that computers may use for an incident, event, or object in the real world when they don’t have any more detailed positioning. That rural business you can’t find on your favorite global mapping platform it’s on Null Island. The accident at a new home under construction unless the 911 center had it in their maps already it likely happened on Null Island. You get the picture.

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NSGIC Announces Staff Addition

National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) announced today that Michelle M. Jones has joined the staff in a newly-created role that spans membership, events management, communications, sponsorship and administration. As manager, membership and communications, Michelle will provide critical support of NSGIC’s organizational growth strategies of increasing reach, accelerating impact and building the NSGIC brand.

“Michelle brings extensive experience in planning and executing mission-critical meetings and projects,” said Molly Schar, NSGIC executive director. “She has great enthusiasm for the work of NSGIC and our member states. I’m confident Michelle will bolster NSGIC’s efforts to provide a robust forum for state-led sharing of best practices and facilitate critical connections across the geospatial ecosystem.”

NSGIC’s two major meetings – the annual conference held in the fall and mid-year meeting held in the spring – anchor the organization’s event calendar. NSGIC members, partners and sponsors participate year-round on joint projects, advocacy initiatives, educational programming and committee work. A recent move to a new online community platform has increased the opportunities for NSGIC stakeholders to engage with one another and collaborate.

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Let's Rally for GeoWomen!

I’ve been thinking about the NSGIC GeoWomen initiative quite a bit since its inception at the Midyear. It feels really important. The more I think about it, the more I am recognizing both the incredible impact that so many important women have made in my life and career, and the potential for more women to be leaders in our profession.

I didn’t think much about it in my formative years, but my grandmother was a fantastic role model. She was a first-generation American from Swedish immigrants and unlike nearly all women of her era, she did not marry as a late teen and settle into a life of limited domestic boundaries. Instead, she earned a 2-year college degree and quickly worked her way up to being the administrative assistant (in the title of Secretary) to the mayor of Worcester, MA. Knowing how driven and organized she was, it’s easy for me to speculate that she had a strong hand in running the city while the mayor did the glad-handing work. She didn’t marry until age 26 (a true “spinster” in 1918) and later ran my grandfather’s homebuilding business, his lumberyard, and also a summer boarding house at Moody Beach in Maine. Anna O. Johnson was the undisputed matriarch and center of the extended Johnson family when I was growing up.

In graduate school at Michigan State I had a wonderful academic advisor, Dr. Judy Olson, and the grad student with whom I had the closest competitive bond (though she always out-competed me, with aplomb) was Cindy Brewer. Cindy stayed for a Ph.D. and went on to become a GIS faculty member at Penn State and the creator of the site that so many GIS people rely on to select appropriate choropleth color schemes.

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Latin for GIS Professionals

You have, I am sure, seen the Latin phrase carpe diem, which translates literally to “seize the day.” In modern usage, carpe diem is sometimes equated to “living in the moment,” taking pleasure in the here and now without regard for the future, and occasionally even an ode to hedonism. But the more important definition, in my opinion, is to take a chance, to go above and beyond what might be expected, to take full advantage of an opportunity, to stretch yourself in pursuit of the issue before you right now. This is a credo that I can embrace, and with the clarity of hindsight, I now recognize that it has been a recurring theme in the best examples of GIS projects I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with over the years.

I’ll venture a guess that Latin scholars won’t like this, but I would like to offer a twist on carpe diem as it applies to those of us in the GIS profession: carpe geo, seize the GIS opportunity. I was honored to be the closing keynote speaker at the Utah Geographic Information Council conference in Park City this year, and I introduced carpe geo as part of my talk. It seemed to resonate well with the audience, well enough to embolden me to write this blog post to circulate it further.

Consider for a moment how most GIS projects start. How many times have you been presented with a complete and clear set of requirements that translate directly to the GIS-based analytics you need to perform to reach a well-articulated outcome? My guess is that your answer is “never.” That would also be my honest answer, and I’m basing mine on more than 32 years in this field.

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Moving Change: The Importance of Small, Unsung Benefits

This isn’t original but it's worth restating.

Maybe ‘change’ is so difficult because it’s so hard to know ‘when’ it’s the right time? That applies to life in general, but certainly to technology fields, like ours. In fact, there’s a whole body of study around the risk and benefit calculations made around technology, including my favorite description, the technology adoption life cycle. I am thinking about this today because I just had my first success with Esri’s latest GIS software product platform, ArcPro.

I am pretty sure that I am not considered an ‘Innovator’ or ‘Early Adopter’ for this change, especially considering how many GIS shops seem to bite instantly on the ‘you have to move now to version x.x’ hook without much thought. But maybe I am making the ‘Early Majority’ cut? It doesn’t really matter. It did, however, remind me of previous GIS software transitions that I’ve been involved in. And the common thread for those changes, surprisingly, was never a quest for the most hyped, flashy functionality.

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Longtime NSGIC Member Joy Paulus to Retire

Washington State GIS Coordinator Joy Paulus is just four days away from retirement. With 30 years of experience in the use, implementation and management of geospatial data and delivery of service, Joy first became a NSGIC member in 2002. Her GIS career took her to Arizona, Vermont, and finally, Washington, where she became the GIS coordinator for the state in 2007. Her awards for environmental data management and coordination include the Washington Governing for Results Award, Efficiency in State Government Award, and Esri Special Achievement in GIS Award. Joy served NSGIC in leadership roles as a committee volunteer and frequent presenter at conferences and meetings. 

A few years ago, Joy shared her favorite quote with us, from Mary Oliver: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" A fitting sentiment as Joy turns the page to a new chapter in her life. Best of luck, Joy, and thanks for everything!