Spring Message from the President

First off I hope that today finds you safe and sound.  I would like to share what the Wisconsin Land Information Association Board has been up to in my quarterly address.    I think that now is a good opportunity to share some information and updates, as well as some thoughts and words of encouragement.  

I would like to announce that the Wisconsin Land Information Association will be rebooking the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan for next spring of 2021, May 10-12.  The event will be a joint meeting with the Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association, as this year was supposed to be.  Our 2021 Spring Conference chair will be new board member Laurel Hanson.  

Speaking of the board of directors, we were not able to have our annual board retreat where we assemble and reorganize for the next year; however, we did have an oversized 4+ hour meeting in its place and another 3.5+ hour monthly meeting a few weeks later to hammer through some of the work that is typically done in our marathon retreat.  We will continue to have extended meetings to make up for lost time.  Our new committee chairs and vice chairs are as follows:

CommunicationKim MeinertBryan Meyer
Spring EducationJason PoserLaurel Hanson
Fall EducationLauree AulikKimberly Christman
LegislativeZach NienowSandy Disrud
Membership & OutreachColleen HermansShelley Witte
TechnicalFred IauslyColter Sikora

I would like to thank them for taking part in our lengthy online meetings so far and look forward to working with them through our next Annual Conference which is being planned by President-Elect Carmen Novak.

I would also like to ask that you stay tuned as details involving our Spring Virtual Meeting are forthcoming.  Our Conference Chair Jason Poser is hard at work along with the rest of the Spring Education Committee hammering out the details.  We are still lining up additional presenters so feel free to submit an abstract if you wish.  We hope to begin promoting our new event very soon.

Around six weeks ago they began cancelling post-season sports tournaments in high school and college, which signaled things were getting serious.  At the end of that week, I attended a workshop put on by the WSLS, New Reference Frames, Datums, Measurement Units and Map Projection & Design. It was a great diversion from the news that dominated the preceding days and would continue to thereafter.  I knew everything was rapidly changing, but the only change from the norm at that workshop was seeing hand sanitizer stations everywhere.  We were packed in the room for the workshop – something that would not be possible today – and were able to serve ourselves in a buffet-style line for lunch.  I don’t know when I will be able to do that again.  I was careful not to touch anything others did and tried to stay in my own personal space as much as possible.  I was nervous, but felt like I was perhaps still safe for the moment as cases of those afflicted by the illness were not widespread.  On my way home, I heard that schools would be closed state-wide the following week.  That evening was our post season pool-party for the 4th grade basketball team that I coached this winter.  I had been stressing about whether we were able to have it and had it been another week away I would have already cancelled it, but figured if the kids could be around each other at school, why not be together one last time.  It was a relief that we were able to have it.  One more normal thing that we could do before the “new normal,” whatever that would be.  It was in that moment that I felt time was standing still and at the same time, slipping away.  

I had already begun to think about how this year would be dominated by COVID-19.  I was anxious, and equated it to waiting for a big surprise, except you know that there is nothing to get excited about – the surprise was going from bad to worse to terrible.  Soon the cancellations of events unfolded as if weaving rows of dominos were beginning their fall,   and you began to wonder when it would end.  Many of us began working from home or with adjusted hours, some of us at the kitchen table under the watchful eyes of pets and kids.  Sadly some people were not able to continue working at all.  That was about a month ago and since then we all have been trying to get adjusted to a new normal.  It is hard to concentrate at times because, well it isn’t normal.  In that first week, I spent the time I couldn’t concentrate thinking about what things might be like as people are unable to work.  I pondered things ranging from trivial, such as the loss of planned vacations, to the tragic loss of loved ones.  I thought about the economy tanking, I thought about panic and product shortages, even potential civil unrest.  However thinking about the future even if it is grim allows one to prepare mentally.  I relate it to spending a few days in the car with my kids.  I expect that it’s going to be awful, but then for the most part it isn’t all that bad.  Probably because I try to drive at night when everyone else is sleeping.  Well now I spend all day with my kids and wife every day, but they are all working or doing work in a school setting, while I sleep in and then keep busy until I head to work at 5PM.

So is there a silver lining in this for us?  It likely depends a lot on our situation going into this, but perhaps we all can gain patience, perspective, and perseverance.

First, I hope that all this time apart teaches us patience.  Whether it is waiting in line at the store, waiting in traffic, or waiting for our screen to refresh.  You have to be patient.  Right now we have no choice, so cherish the opportunities that come our way and live in the moment.  

Next, I hope that we all gain the perspective to value our friends, family, and time.  Let’s face it, there is nothing good about prematurely losing friends and loved ones.  We will all be touched by this in one way or another, some closer than others.  It might be a co-worker, it might be a friend or family member, it might be someone that you don’t know but cherish for the entertainment that they provide you, be it an author, musician, actor, or athlete.  Whether they are old or young, it was before you expected them to be gone.   And can you imagine if this had happened prior to the internet?  I sure am thankful that we can work from home and still speak to and even see people we are working with in real time.  Technology removes a lot of barriers but there is a lack of human touch and warmth.  I am not going to take for granted something like a handshake or a hug – it’s going to mean a lot more.

I also hope we can persevere.  I often say you play the hand you are dealt – sometimes you are dealt a losing hand, so you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them.  Words made famous when sung by the late Kenny Rogers.  You have to plan and plan some more, and when your back up plan goes to waste, you need to think on the fly.  I love our state motto, FORWARD.  Win or lose you press on.  Even if you are going to be going through a rough stretch, doing nothing is not a good option.  So that might mean you fight back harder against what is causing you trouble, but that also might mean it is time to cut and run or simply retreat, regroup and live to fight another day.  I remind you that sometimes you do have to run from danger and you sure as hell won’t get away trying to run backwards, you are just running FORWARD in a different direction.  

Some of us in the land information community have been able to share data in our local communities through maps to help people gain understanding of the spread of COVID-19 and direct people to services in times of need.  There is more to it than just tracking the number of deceased.  This is the way that we can help fight the fight while we stay out of harm, lead people to assistance, and remind them to do so safely.  For most of us this is our first foray into the health and human services community.  We have been able to use our data to respond to natural disasters, everyday emergency response, development planning, conservation strategy implementation, analyzing trends in the housing industry, and now, to assist the response to a public health emergency.  I always felt that was an untapped growth area for the land information community but as is often the case we have to react rather than be proactive.  Some of you have been working on advanced COVID-19 Hubs and support for your health departments during the pandemic and as a member of the land information community I thank you for putting our strengths on display.  Nonetheless, if you haven’t been involved with the response to COVID-19 cases, this won’t be the first or last time we end up facing an unexpected task.  So I urge you all to keep planning, keep learning and be ready for the next disaster – it might be in your community and you might be called into action.  In the meantime, keep doing your job as well as you can.

Jeremiah Erickson

2 Comments on “Spring Message from the President

  1. Jeremiah, Thanks for the thoughtful and encouraging message. Stay safe!

  2. Best wishes to Brenda. Thanks so very much for your tireless, creative and productive contributions to Wisconsins’ land information modernization efforts!

    Sue and Ben Niemann