Wisconsin Geospatial News

Parting thoughts from Curtis Pulford, Wisconsin Geographic Information Officer

I had the chance to pose some questions to Curtis Pulford, who recently announced his retirement as Wisconsin’s Geographic Information Officer (GIO). Below are the questions and Curtis’s responses.

Veregin: With your departure, what is the future of the repository/geoportal project?

Pulford: The repository/geoportal project will be a model for future Wisconsin enterprise geospatial initiatives. The project is owned by the voting members, who represent stakeholder interests. In this case, those stakeholders are the major government geospatial data custodians and consumers. Facilitated by the Department of Administration (DOA) Division of Enterprise Technology (DET), project outcomes are driven by the needs and directives of the stakeholder groups. The project is currently on-track and has a projected end date of August 2014.

I will now be unable to see the project to conclusion but I have every confidence that this project will have a successful completion. DOA will continue to lead the remaining project meetings and produce the project team’s implementation recommendation. Lee Samson [DOA staff] is setting up installations of the two geoportal finalists (ESRI Geoportal Server and CKAN) for testing. Morgan Jarocki is working with Davita Veselenak [both DOA staff] on documenting the project decision process and recommendations. They are fully supported by DOA/DET management in these efforts. Implementation of the recommended solution will be a good starting point upon which to further expand collaborative enterprise stakeholder interests.

V: What are your thoughts on what the GIO position is, or isn’t?

P: When states began pushing for the position of GIO it was envisioned as an advocate for the effective use and promotion of state geospatial information. Every state has implemented this idea differently, and some are still in planning. State GIOs can be both an office, with up to 20+ staff, and an Officer. In some cases they are empowered by legislation to promote and implement solutions presented by a legislatively created state Board or Council. The most “productive” GIOs have both mandate and resources behind them. In Wisconsin the position sits under the state CIO (Chief Information Officer) and within Enterprise Technology. The position has authorities and limits set within Chapter 16 of state (Administration) statutes. The Wisconsin GIO is capable of providing enterprise solutions where a clear mandate, development, operations and maintenance have been considered. The Wisconsin GIO does not have expenditure lines in state budget for discretionary investigations.

V: What are your thoughts for the next GIO?

P: I believe the coming months will see more state stakeholder cooperation toward a strategic plan based, in part, on revisions to state land information budgeting. I have no doubt that our state geospatial community fully recognizes Wisconsin’s strengths and weaknesses. And I believe they will have good suggestions for how to take steps to improve our business. This office can be a great asset in getting there, provided people understand our abilities. I have always been a proponent for partnerships. In this state, without statutory mandates, we have to find efficient ways to pair resources. Public/private, public/academic, and public/public partnerships have a good track record recently. Certainly WROC (Wisconsin Regional Orthophotography Consortium), EBM (Enhanced Broadband Mapping project), and the aforementioned Repository/Geoportal pairings are achieving many positive results. I would recommend that any successor look for opportunities to promote the enterprise GIS platform and service offerings possible only through DOA, while partnering with logical parties for things like research, development, coordination, lobbying and outreach. 

V: If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?

P: In the real world, I wouldn’t change anything. I’ve met wonderful people, was involved in passionate and stimulating investigations, and feel good knowing that I tried my hardest to achieve what was best for the state. Few roads are pothole-free. This one certainly wasn’t, but the journey has been very rewarding and I know that we have provided great GIS services to those we’ve been fortunate to work most successfully with.

V: Where do you see Wisconsin geospatial in five years?

P: As I mentioned previously, I think there is promise for a bright future if we can either work well as partners or change some of the driving mechanisms. Certainly, no state is richer in data and talent. 

V: What are your personal plans for the future?

P: Six months ago I was only pretty sure that I was retiring in the summer and moving to a warmer climate. I began working with DET management a few months ago on transition planning, but still wasn’t sure what state we would end up in after the sale of our home. Old friends, where my wife and I began our GIS careers, asked if we’d be interested in returning to Arizona, and inquired if I’d be interested in a position with Arizona state government. Since I had many years of service there already, I followed up and recently accepted a position with State Lands. So…it’s off to sunny Phoenix, Arizona! We will initially rent a four-bedroom house, with room for kids and our four horses, in a school district that won the national academic decathlon. We’ll watch the market for a larger “project” house that has some investment potential, and I’ll be busy, busy, busy…