Surveyor, teacher, advocate and public servant.
Those four words pretty much sum up Bryan Douglass, a registered land surveyor and project manager at Denver Water.
Surveyors collect and provide crucial information about the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface.
Their precise measurements are used to mark the legal boundary lines when land is bought or sold. The data determines the precise location of roads or buildings, and just how deep a building’s foundation needs to be.
They also provide data for engineering projects, as Douglass has done during his 14 years at Denver Water, where he’s worked on projects like replacing water pipes, preliminary design for the Northwater Treatment Plant and the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project.
But surveying is more than a job for Douglass. He’s passionate about the role surveyors play in many industries and across the public sector.
“So much of our job is related to other industries and applications, like the data that goes into mapping systems or when we have to provide evidence in legal matters. These industries need survey data for different reasons,” he said.
Douglass is so passionate about surveying that last year he decided to campaign to be Jefferson County’s publicly elected surveyor — and won his November 2018 election with 54 percent of the vote.
Douglass was sworn into his four-year term Jan. 8.
As the Jefferson County Surveyor, largely an oversight role, Douglass will review legal documents, represent the county in property and legal affairs and provide advisory services to the Board of County Commissioners, as needed.
The job of a surveyor has changed a lot over the years.
“Twenty years ago, the county surveyor role was a full-time job,” Douglass said. “Less than 15 years ago, a surveyor would have been out in the field, making intricate and detailed maps using books, pencils and paper.”
Now, not so much, as technological advancements have revolutionized the industry.
“Today’s surveyor is most often on a computer in an office, using software and notes from when they go into the field,” he said.
Douglass wants to take the innovative spirit seen in his industry and apply it to his work with Jefferson County.
“This is a great opportunity to engage in public outreach and help implement general educational efforts around land surveying and engineering,” Douglass said. “It’s my job to help people.”
As county surveyor, Douglass wants to work closely with the school district, helping to provide property information to staff and students. He also wants to work with the Jefferson County Sheriff, helping law enforcement use data to pinpoint rural locations and compile detailed reports.
Douglass said the County Surveyor’s office can also provide information to local governments and elected officials who don’t have field staff to help with community development issues.
How will he keep up with his work at Denver Water and his plans as county surveyor?
Luckily for Douglass, the Jefferson County surveyor position is a part-time position, and he has the full support of his team and supervisors at Denver Water to do both.
“Bryan is simply a fantastic person and is an outstanding representative for the surveying industry,” said Dan Thompson, Douglass’ supervisor at Denver Water. “He is a humble and hard-working person here at Denver Water, and we know how much he has to offer to Jefferson County in his new role. He’ll be a great benefit to both teams.”
There’s one component that will be the same at both jobs, and that relates to education.
For the past three years, Douglass has done educational outreach about surveying, specifically to high school students, advisers and guidance counselors. In the surveying industry, companies are ready for new recruits, as the average age of surveyors is 59 years.
“Even though it’s a really exciting industry, we are hurting for new talent in this field,” Douglass said. “It’s critically important to reach out to students and educate them on the job opportunities that exist in surveying, which have decent starting salaries and room for advancement. The main goal is to set up the next generation for success.”
He’s already working on the next generation.
When Douglass was on the campaign trail before he was elected as County Surveyor, a local mom asked him to visit with her 13-year-old son who has a passion for mapping and was thinking about being a land surveyor or cartographer someday.
Douglass arranged for the teenager and his mom to tour Denver Water’s new Operations Complex Redevelopment construction site to learn more about civil engineering and see how maps become buildings.
“It opened him up to a world of possibilities for future career options, because we have a plethora of jobs that use this technology,” Douglass said. “It’s so exciting to see what you can do with data and what a map can actually be, now and in years to come.”