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News & Press: MSS News

Spotlight: Pattianne Smith

Monday, June 11, 2018   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Ebonique Ellis
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Growing up in Harford County, I was raised with an appreciation of the outdoors.  My father grew a massive vegetable garden each year and my mother taught  an appreciation for the woods and the weather.  I was also fortunate to belong to the Harford County 4-H program where I had a wide variety of outdoor experiences.  I am a Professional Land Surveyor and my name is Pattianne Smith.

 

I believe I started surveying helping my Dad layout the rows for his vegetable garden, they had to be parallel and straight!  I gained more insight when I had my first orienteering class at 4-H Conservation Camp.  Later, while working for my degree in Horticulture at the University of Maryland, I learned how to pace more accurately and work the compass as we mapped trails using USGS Quad maps for the Harford County and Western Maryland 4-H Camps.  After all of that I still thought I wanted to be a Horticulturalist!

 

In 1983 I landed full time at Purdum and Jeschke, Engineers and Land Surveyors located in Baltimore City.  I was a good draftsman and almost immediately they set me to work plotting topo from those big orange field books.  Curiosity, and an itch to get back outside, lead me to inquire just how those numbers got into that book?  The Chief of Surveys said that as long as he was there I would never work in the field. Mr. Purdum, however, who raised 5 daughters, had something different to say.   Soon I was running a gun in my first survey party.  Once I proved I could carry the gun, legs and traffic cones without asking for help, I was in, and I never looked back. 

 

The Maryland Society of Surveyors, at the time, offered a 4-year program every Thursday night at the University of Maryland College Park, my alma mater.  It was a comprehensive program that taught you everything you needed to know to become a Licensed Surveyor.  The idea was that after this 4-year course and on the job training, you would be eligible to sit for the Property Line Surveyors exam.  Unfortunately, they ended that license 1 year before I was eligible.  I loved every minute of that program and never missed a class.  I am just as proud of graduating from that program as I am of earning my License. 

 

One of the best experiences I had in surveying was making a boundary determination, on my own, that was approved by my boss.  That was a milestone.

 

One of the worst experiences I had in surveying was running traverse through a mosquito infested swamp.  I was the instrument man so while the back sight and fore sight guys got to move around and swat the mosquitoes I had to stay in one place, turn the angles, keep the book and try not to let them fly in my eyes!  It took two legs to get through that swamp and I was eaten up by the time we exited.  Gives me the creepy crawlies just thinking about it nearly 30 years later!

 

Today, working for the State Highway Administration’s Plats & Surveys Division, most of my work involves both Route Surveying and Boundary Surveying.  (For those who don’t know the difference give me a call next time you are working along a State roadway, I’ll give you a lesson.)  Writing descriptions was always something I enjoyed, and I get to do a lot of that now.  Reviewing consultant work and preparing mosaics, boundary work maps, teaching the next generation and answering calls from the private sector surveyors make up the rest of my time.  I enjoy acting as a bridge between the private and public sector surveying worlds.  My advice to the private sector folk trying to prepare an SHA plat, don’t fight it, just do it!

 

Along the way I have been very fortunate to be in the presence of many talented people who were willing to share their expertise.  A few of them are Bill Rasch, Arturo Reyes, Jim Kramperth, Ed Deiaco-Lohr, Dennis Miller, Gordon Langdon and Don Hall, Dave Ransone, Mike McGuire and Tom Curtis.  My long-time mentor, councilor and friend Patrick Simon has had the most influence over my career and for that I am truly grateful.  I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my many co-workers over the years who have guided and influenced me, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers of their own.

 

One of the many lessons I learned from these folk is to never underestimate the value of a proper deed mosaic.  It is the foundation of every boundary determination and written description.  The idea is to not to have to touch a deed more than once, convey all that is pertinent onto that mosaic.  When writing a description make clear your intent, respect the order of calls, every word and word placement matters.  And finally, reading the land, seeing the old mill race, the old road cut, the barbed wire trace sticking out of a tree, the remnants of a stone wall, nothing, and I mean nothing, will replace actual field observations.

 

My advice to new surveyors, be a sponge and then make up your own mind.  Learn to write a surveyor’s report of your boundary determinations and prepare a detailed workmap of your findings and decisions. 

 

When I am not surveying I love to garden, knit and sew.  I enjoy making all kinds of crafts and going to antique stores and flea markets.  Spending quality time with family and friends and cats rounds out my time.

 

What has changed since I started?  Well, I started on a K&E transit, moved to a Topcon EDM and now you barely need to have an instrument operator at all.  There are fewer entry level positions, no more rodmen to party chief to field coordinator.  The “need” to do more with less had compromised many industries, surveying is just one of them.  Surveying is not all math and calculations, there is an art to being able to read a landscape, an art that I fear is not being taught or passed to the young surveyors today.   I hope I am wrong.  I do not believe one can come out of college with a 4-year degree and know how to be a land surveyor.  You must know your client and your client is the land which you have been asked to survey.  The land is what you need to get to know, its secrets, its history, how it was marked 100 years ago, what has changed and where it is going.  You don’t read that in a book, you need time to learn how to read the land.

 

I came to Land Surveying out of curiosity, and it is the same reason that I have stayed in it this long.  I truly love what I do, learning the history, finding the stone, solving the puzzle, setting the line.

 

I am not the brightest bulb in the room, but I will dig to find the answer until I do see the light. 

 

Other Photos:

 

Comments...

James Neville says...
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2018
That is a life-story and a half Pattianne. I had a conversation with a licensed land surveyor this week who tried to convince me that there is no need to run a traverse around the boundary of a six acre lot to perform an ALTA Survey....... The 'modern' way I was told, is to hit a few of the corners with RTK and call it good. What about the couple of corners down in a grove of trees that receive no signal, I asked? Well, the other few corners matched within 3 or 4 tenths, and the subdivision was approved and platted in 1972, so no need to tie any more. The party-chief said that he saw all the corners so why waste anymore time on it? I was stunned, frankly. I find the field process to be the most rewarding part of the survey. To misquote Forrest Gump, 'You never know what you are going to find' ~ the peaked rock, the rifle barrel, the tractor axle, the cotton spindle ~ the 'modern' surveyor must live a very sterile life indeed. I am glad that I learned the craft in the 1970's.
William Carroll says...
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Way to go, Pattianne. A fellow 4-H'er, Terp alumnus, & surveyor, to boot. Right on about the 4 years of college. Education is important, and so is experience. You can't teach boundary decision-making without eye-balling the property. As Mr. Demma instructed us at the MSS classes in College Park, "Surveyor's are expert witnesses to the evidence." Ain't nothing like finding a called stone from 1911 or the bottom half of a broken-off concrete monument 15" under the surface. Teachable moments may be more lasting than the studies. Nicely done, Pattianne.

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