GIS Technology is Information Game Changer for Arkansas Municipality
Geographic information systems (GIS) technology provides municipal governments with exceptional quantitative and qualitative benefits. In fact, the technology can be the basis for revolutionizing how government processes work through its ability for accessing and producing maps, leveraging database information and automating work processes. Wes Cleland was first introduced to the powerful capabilities of GIS technology when his military service brought him to the U.S. Army’s Department of Geospatial Intelligence.
Before his bachelor’s degree was even completed, Cleland began to use his database skills to contribute to his department as a GIS Coordinator for a rural Arkansas municipality. One of the more notable projects Wes was involved in greatly impressed his colleagues: Cleland used his database skills to redistrict city council boundaries in record time. This was an information game changer for the department.
“The geospatial skills I learned from American Sentinel University’s GIS program were invaluable to help me understand the relationship between Census data tables and Tiger Line shape files to create three scenarios for ward redistricting,” says Cleland. “Ultimately, by using natural terrain figures as a guide, combined with the number of persons per household, I was able to shift the boundaries enough to make the populations of each ward within the acceptable percentage.”
GIS Helps Cleland Work Efficiently and Effectively
With his employers impressed with his capabilities, Cleland was given the green light to automate 90 percent of the data processes that used to require weeks or months to tabulate, which now only take a fraction of the time to perceive.
Cleland soon became the authorized floodplain manager for the city and was the go-to professional for vital GIS disaster recovery information. And that was only the beginning.
“GIS can assist municipalities in planning, asset management, travel forecasting, traffic control and floodplain management – just to name a few,” says Cleland.
He points out that GIS has the ability to take equations that normally take hours, days, etc. and can process that information more quickly and efficiently.
“Compared to pulling out outdated paper maps, combing through filing cabinets and spending hours for field verification, being able to search though the data, conduct the analysis and produce results in a short amount of time can really automate work processes,” he adds.
Cleland and the department have inventoried each street in the municipality to provide analysis and repairs on a regular basis. Storm water and exactly where it will end up in the main river is now accurately predicted. This offers insurance information for floods and can even show authorities where to shut off access to the river in the event of a chemical spill to minimize pollution.
“It’s rewarding to know that I am using and applying this technology to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Cleland.
Dr. Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University notes that the marketplace dictates which skills are in demand and those with marketable skills in geographic information systems have been rewarded with above average salaries.
“The increased recognition of the importance of GIS throughout an organization has made the GIS professional a highly valued employee. The challenging work environment provides an outlet for creativity and the relatively low stress level offers job satisfaction.”
Together, these factors produce a situation in which GIS professionals like Cleland are able to capitalize on their advanced skills that have created job security.
Cleland’s also able to envision good things for the future of his career.
“The Army taught me how to think thoroughly about how I use geospatial intelligence and I was shown how to think on my feet,” explains Cleland.
Cleland is now enrolled in American Sentinel’s GIS master’s program to fully fuse his understanding of geospatial intelligence with GIS database administration knowledge.
With such well-developed GIS skills and so many successes under his belt, he is sure to build a career that will manifest his highest ideals and has room to dream.
Learn more about American Sentinel University’s GIS degrees at http://www.americansentinel.edu/online-degree/bachelor-degree-online/bachelor-gis-degree.php.
About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS masters programs, online GIS certificates, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.