Member Spotlight: Laurel Hodkiewicz

Posted By: Emily Sudar Member Spotlight,

We've brought back the Member Spotlight series so we can all get to know each other better.  Do you know a WLIA colleague that you think people should know?  Let us know at and send us their contact information.  We may not get to everyone, but we'll try!


Allow me to introduce Laurel Hanson Hodkiewicz, an alumna of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and the current Manager of Siting and Land Rights at Xcel Energy. With a decade of dedicated service at Xcel, Laurel has continually progressed within her organization, championing the integration of GIS throughout her various roles. She has been an active member of the WLIA for eight years, serving on the board since 2020. That's right, she's been a board member for half of her duration as a member — sincerely a testament to her drive. I’ve been told that the only thing that can match her drive is her ready laugh and welcoming demeanor. 

How did you come to your current profession or job?
My dad worked for the utility for 38 years and my mom was my 7th grade Geography teacher, so from a young age I knew I wanted to be a Geospatial Analyst at a utility….JUST KIDDING! While the first sentence is true, I never had any inkling of going into Geography or GIS as a kid.  I took a political geography class my freshman year which exposed me to a new way of thinking about the world and how it is connected. I was hooked; it wasn’t until another year of Geography classes that one of my professors told me that it could be a major and a line of work to go into. I continued to take human

 geography courses and GIS courses.  Towards the end of my college days I still didn’t know exactly how I would use my Geography and GIS skills in a career.  I applied for a business internship in the Siting and Land Rights Department at Xcel Energy because although it wasn’t a GIS Internship, it was the closest internship description I could find pertaining to GIS or Geography.  I was hired as a business intern, but it was quickly realized how valuable my skills would be for the department.  Since that day I have been able to build GIS within the Siting and Land Rights department and beyond the department in renewables, transmission construction, environmental and more.

What kind of work do you focus on in your current position?
In my role as the manager who oversees GIS, Survey and land records, a main focus of mine has been communicating the value my team can provide and expanding the use of the ESRI platform within the company. Xcel has been a historically GE SmallWorld GIS company, but recently there has been a shift to use more ESRI products to visualize and provide mobile GIS to the company.  My team has been integral in the transition.
What are some of your current work related goals?
My main work-related goal is to ensure the GIS framework is established in a way that allows Xcel Energy to expand on it’s ability to visualize and collect data in an efficient manner.  Doing so will help us to gain efficiencies and provide better decision-making tools.
I am working towards my GISP and plan to get an MBA in the next few years.
What’s your most favorite part and least favorite part of your job?
In a generation of continuous improvement, the favorite part of my job is knowing the impact and continuous improve the analytics and tools my team provides.  The GIS performed reduces cost for construction, inspections, acquisition and more which helps the company keep on timelines, compliance and budget. My team has been an integral team in project selection through in-service. 
I am a very impatient person, so the least favorite part of my job is waiting for the ability to use new apps, tools and software.

What is the best career advice someone has ever given you?
“Just give them a call.” Most problems can be solved by picking up the phone and talking it through. 

What do you like to do for fun? (Hobbies, volunteer work, etc.)
I have two boys, 8 and 2, so there is limited time right now for hobbies, but as a family we love to spend time at our family cabins and our family farm.  An afternoon on the boat is one of my favorite ways to pass a day.  I also enjoy live music and a good fish fry.
Sports are a big part of our lives.  We love to watch Badger and Packer Football games.  I am a board member for my son’s youth hockey association.  My husband and son are avid golfers and after watching Full Swing on Netflix, I got the golfing bug myself.  I have been practicing a lot this year and am looking forward to cutting down my golf score next summer haha.
What superlative did you receive in your high school year book?
It was either most klutzy or most gullible, I can’t remember which one, but both would have been true…
What’s something most people wouldn’t guess about you?
You wouldn’t believe from the answer above, but I was a dancer from age 3-13 at Stephanie’s Eau Claire School of Dance.  I was on the dance competition track for a few years and have a lot of gold and silver trophies – but honestly you would never know anymore haha!
What is your favorite map/project/anything you’ve ever made/accomplished and why?
A coworker and I developed mobile mapping and field inspections for wind farms.  It was a massive undertaking and very challenging.  The team member hadn’t worked together before and wind project construction was totally new to us.  At the end of the day, we were able to build a replicable model that provided a compliance tool and a large amount of savings.
My team is currently working to transition this workflow from Survey123 to Forms in ArcGIS Field Maps.  This will allow us to automate the inspection reports using the Microsoft PowerBI connector.  It will pull the inspection data from ArcGIS Field Maps and create a PDF of the inspection report that gets automatically stored in SharePoint.  This is estimated to save hundreds of hours in a year.