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News & Press: MSS News

Spotlight: Patrick Simon

Friday, July 6, 2018   (0 Comments)
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When did you start surveying?

I was first introduced to surveying when I was 17 years old. It was a one-semester course in high school (Baltimore Polytechnic Institute). The course taught us how to setup and measure with a level and a transit. We ran a small four-leg traverse and a 600 foot long level run and then processed the field work. I got an “A” in it and enjoyed having a school class that let us go outside. While I was not employed in the profession, I guess this is technically my initial start into surveying.

 

Why did you get into surveying?

When I graduated from high school, I registered for college to study Engineering. About a week before I was to go to college, I was looking through the paper (back in 1975 we didn’t have the internet yet) and saw an ad for a rodman at George W. Stephens, Jr. and Associates located in Towson. I really enjoyed the class I had in surveying and thought it might be fun as an occupation. I called their office and Frank Ziegler asked if I could come in for an interview. After the interview, Mr. Ziegler asked if I could start the next day (which was the day I was supposed to go to college for orientation). I thought, should I owe money to a college, or make money for myself? It didn’t take long for me to decide that making money was better than owing money. However, the following year, I was taking night classes at CCBC (known as Catonsville Community College back in the olden days). I never regretted the decision to get into surveying, but going to school full-time is a bit easier than night school and a job.

 

 

 

Describe one of your best experiences while surveying?

In the beginning of my surveying career, I worked for private companies and was not always welcomed with open arms by neighbors of the land we were surveying. The land the people had seen for many years was usually going to change for some kind of development. However, when I started working for Baltimore County government, things changed, since the bulk of our work involved maintaining the county’s infrastructure. We were doing a topographic survey of a failing stream in a residential area. I was visiting the field crew and a homeowner came over to us and asked what we were doing. The crew chief walked away and let me deal with the homeowner. I told him we were surveying the stream to design a repair to stop it from eroding during heavy rain storms. He was very happy this problem was being addressed and offered to bring us out some beers. Another memorable experience was being part of the group of people that recovered the Mason & Dixon Crown Stone 40, which had not been seen for over 110 years. Following the footsteps of surveyors from 100 and 250 years ago, then finding the marker, was a great feeling.

 

 

Describe one of your worst experiences while surveying?

There are two experiences stand out: Once, while setting a property corner, I was holding a pipe with my left hand and holding a 12-pound sledge hammer, near the top, with my right hand to get pipe started. As I swung the hammer down, the edge of the hammer hit the edge of the pipe and slipped off. My right index finger came between the pipe and hammer and needed five stiches. The other is while running cross-sections in poison ivy for a couple of weeks, I got such a bad case that I had trouble opening and closing my hands.

 

 

When did you get licensed and do you have more than one license?

I am only licensed in Maryland, I received my Property Line Surveyor license in 1987 and my Professional Land Surveyor license in 1990.

 

 

What type of surveying makes up most of your work?

For the first 28 years, while working in the private sector, I did mostly Boundary Surveys, ALTA Surveys, subdivisions and commercial/institution developments. Since 2003, when starting at Baltimore County Government, it is mostly Topographic Surveys and Boundary Surveys.

 

 

Who are some of the surveyors that influenced your knowledge in the profession (in school or on the job)? What was special about what you learned from them?

One of the first crew chiefs I worked for was John Mellema. I worked with him for 1-2 years until he got his license and left to start his own surveying company. He asked me to work for him and I did so for 11 years. It was a great place to start my career, because I learned all phases of Surveying. It was the literal “mom and pop” shop, so you were given a project and took it from deed research to the final plat. I also attended CCBC – Catonsville Campus during this time and was fortunate to have James Mask as my instructor for all but one of my surveying classes. He exposed me to areas of surveying that you don’t always experience while in a working environment. He always had time for questions and would explain things until I was able to understand. Next, I would like to mention Michael Maguire. He was a boss that made sure you could explain the reasoning for the decisions you made. I developed a deep appreciation for surveying case law while working for Mike. You had to know the details of why you did what you did or it was not going to be a nice conversation with the boss. Lastly, I will mention Tom Curtis as the most supportive and caring boss I had. While Tom was not really a “surveying” mentor he was definitely an example of how to treat your employees.

 

What advice would you give to new surveyors?

If you find you like surveying, get involved with MSS and get to know other surveyors. I have made some really great friends through MSS and the benefits you get from networking with other surveyors cannot be overstated. It is so nice to have a person or persons you can call whenever there is an issue you don’t understand or need help. There is always something else you can learn about surveying. Take advantage of the educational opportunities at CCBC and MSS seminars.

 

When you are not surveying, what do you like to do?

For those of you who know me this will be no surprise: “Geocaching.” It is a global treasure hunting game. Do an internet search or ask me about it when you see me for more details. Also I really enjoy being with my family. As my kids are getting married and having their own kids, I look forward to the summer vacations when everyone is together under one roof. I like traveling and hiking in the woods, and geocaching works well with both of these.

 

How has surveying changed since you started?

Only a one-word answer is needed for this question: “Technology.” I did own my first calculator, a Texas Instrument SR-11, before I started surveying, but the first survey crew I worked on had logarithm, sine, cosine etc. books in the truck for the crew chief to do calculations. While electronics, GPS, Lidar, UAS (drones) have changed the way we make a lot of our measurements, a quote I like to share is “New tools are no replacement for old rules.” Redundant measurements, checking, and calibrating equipment is as important today as ever.

 

 

What question did you expect us to ask and didn’t?

I guess it would be: “What do you like best about the surveying profession?” Surveying is a profession I did not create or own. I am using it, along with those before me and those coming after me, as the occupation that bought my house, my car, fed my family, paid for my 3 kids’ college and allowed me to go on vacations and live comfortably. Therefore, I need to take care of it by working with others to protect it from encroachment of other professions, over regulation, helping it change with the times and promote it as the great profession that it is for the generations of surveyors to come. It has many facets such as mathematics, law, history, technology and geodesy, to name a few that make it so interesting for me. I have been fortunate to work with many great men and women and have enjoyed watching them move into positions of importance. I am proud to have shared my surveying journey with them while adding my “surveyor footprints” for future surveyors to follow.


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