Dual Frequency: Q&A with Lamar Evers, President, NSPS

Lamar Evers, PLS, was elected president of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) in March 2013.  He began his surveying career in 1966 and went on to own and operate his own professional surveying company before becoming a county, and now statewide, surveyor currently working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  He is licensed in Florida and three other states.  

DF: Lamar, could you provide us with a brief history of your involvement with NSPS?

LE: I’ve been involved with NSPS since 1991, when I was appointed the NSPS governor for Florida to fulfill an unexpired term of the previous governor. I served for about three years, then took a sabbatical for a couple of years. I became re-involved in 1996 and have remained actively involved ever since.

DF: What do you enjoy about being involved with NSPS?

LE: I enjoy being involved with NSPS because of the people.  Almost all of the people I’ve met over the years have become good friends and are people who have been involved in their profession at their local and state level before moving up to the national level.  They are all men and women of integrity, and want nothing but the best for this profession.  I like to think that I’ve made some contributions to it. But whether I have or not will remain to be seen. Only history will tell.

DF: You’ve been president of NSPS since March. What have you learned in the first half-year of your year-long term in office?

LE: I’ve learned that surveyors are concerned about their representation nationally and question whether they are they having a voice in our nation’s capital when it comes to issues that deal with the surveying and mapping profession and the acquisition of professional services.  

Probably one of the greatest highlights of my tenure up to this point has been seeing how our 100% membership program has taken off. As of this week we received the MOU [memorandum of understanding] from the 28th state.  So, we are well over the 50% mark. Our membership is growing.  We don’t have a firm count on membership at this time, but my guess is that we have between 12,000 and 15,000 members.

DF: When you’ve gone from under 3,000 members to over 12,000, that changes the magnitude of NSPS’s clout in Washington.  Don’t you agree? 

LE: It’s definitely got to have an impact on our voice in Washington. And having someone like John Palatiello & Associates as our legislative affairs consultant being able to say he represents a membership that’s somewhere in the range of 15,000 professionals is going to carry an impact. And this is not just 15,000 licensed surveyors, it’s also all of the people that they employ, so the overall impact is more like 80,000 to 100,000 potential voters.  That makes a difference, and people listen to that.

DF:  One of the issues that coincided with John Palatiello & Associates directing the legislative function for NSPS was the announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor that it was changing how the Davis-Bacon Act categorized survey crew members.  Under DOL revision, members of survey crews would now be considered as “laborers and mechanics.” A letter sent from NSPS to DOL last week asked the federal agency to put its action on hold until it could be reviewed.

LE: Yes, that is true. They are trying to classify the employees of professional surveyors as apprentices.  At one time that may have been an appropriate avenue, but even then the DoL did not consider survey technician activities as “laborer and mechanic.” As more and more states begin to require a degree for entrance into the profession, any semblance of apprenticeship gone by the wayside. The NSPS Certified Survey Technician (CST) program is the nationally accepted method to determine the qualifications for survey technicians rather than some arbitrary apprenticeship program set up for some subset of employees. 

There will always be survey technicians who have not attained professional status apprentices, so to speak, because we will have to have technicians to do some of the work that we do, and they are not going to be people that are making professional decisions and doing the things that a licensed professional would do, but the nature of their work, and the level of expertise required for their jobs, eliminates them from being considered “laborers and mechanics.” So I think that we really need to put that on hold until NSPS, along with some of its associated organizations, can make a thorough review of it and see if what is being proposed is the proper avenue to classify these individuals.  I’m just not sold on our people being apprentices at this point because we really don’t have an apprenticeship avenue to licensure except in a few states. Most of the states have gone to four-year degree requirements.

DF:  What other issues do you see holding the profession of surveying back?

LE: One of the greatest issues I see as holding our profession back is that people in leadership in surveying, both nationally and at the state level, are moving into their golden years, so to speak. We’re a greying profession and we have a lot fewer younger people coming into our profession. I think we need to attract younger people. They are going to be the lifeblood of our profession.  They are more into the technology than a lot of us. They are more familiar with social media and more interactive with their counterparts than a lot of us who are older and didn’t come up in that culture.

DF: Last week at the AUVSI [unmanned vehicle] conference in Washington, D.C., we saw a number of survey company leaders walking the expo floor, looking at UAVs as a likely tool once the FAA rules on that topic.  Most of the surveyors who were there were younger.

LE:  I’m sure you are right. The UAVs are a great tool that will be out there for us in a short amount of time. But a lot of surveyors my age are not taking the time to learn about what is coming down the road right now. But my 32-year-old son, who is a licensed surveyor in Florida, and other young people like him are grabbing a hold of this technology. They’re doing some unique projects that technology like this allows and that I might not ever look at. They’re really meeting the needs of their clients and they’re advancing this profession.

DF: Some have criticized surveyors for not operating their firms enough like businesses. What do you see?

LE: I have to agree with that assessment. My wife [Marilyn is executive director of the Florida Surveying and Mapping Society] and I were having dinner two nights ago, and we were discussing professionalism among my peers.  I work as a surveyor for the state of Florida and I review a lot of documents that are prepared by outside consultants.  Like many states, when the documents are submitted to me they become public record.  

We have surveyors who will submit documentation, like on a CD, and just take a sharpie and write on the CD, then submit it to me.  But do they deliver that to their client?  Ignoring something as simple as putting a formal label on a CD demonstrates a lack of professionalism.

DF:  When your one-year term as president of NSPS comes to a close, how would you like your time at the helm to be remembered?

LE: I’m not sure what I want my legacy to be, but I’m sure I don’t want it to be that “he was a president who did nothing.”  I do see this time as a turning point for surveyors and the organization that represents them nationally.  It’s a wonderful thing that we now have 28 states with 100% membership at the national level. We’ve also gained a foothold in our legislative affairs, and we’re also making significant inroads into gaining national recognition.  I’d like to think I’m remembered for having a hand in reshaping and rebranding NSPS. 

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