PLSO The Oregon Surveyor March/April 2022

23 Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon | Featured Article An Introduction to the PLSO Legislative Committee Chair By James Hepler, PLS, Chair of the PLSO Legislative Committee “We’ll love you no matter what you choose to do, but there are better ways tomake a living than falling timber,” he said. While on a family vacation, Dad talked tome about career choices. It was the late 1970s, and timber falling was not a bad way to make a living. His dad had been a timber faller in the days before chainsaws. Dad did well enough falling timber and seemed proud of what he did, sowhat he said surprised me. I had worked odd jobs since sixth grade, but really had not given a career any thought. The conversation opened the possibility of choices. Through high school, I took drafting courses and thought about architecture. After one year of architectural drafting, I knew that was not for me. I just did not have the imagination to visualize a unique creation. I was good enough at drafting, and when there was an opening for a part-time draftsman in the Public Works department, my drafting instructor recommended me. It was a way to keep gas in the car, but I could not see that as a lifelong career. In 1979, my best friend went to Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) for civil engineering. He chose the structural engineering branch and mentioned the surveying program tome. There were meetings with high school guidance counselors who told me, “Your SAT scores for math are just not good enough for surveying. You should consider something else.” I had gotten B grades in algebra and geometry. In my mind, surveyors worked outside in the niceweather anddrewmaps when it rained. I loved fishing, hunting, and backpacking. The mix of indoor and outdoor work seemed ideal. So, I decided surveying was for me. Math could not be that important after all. In fall 1980, off to OIT I went. The education was excellent. Memory has dimmed as to the names of specific professors, but this was my first experience with education where I felt engaged and could see a useful end-goal for my efforts. Even the math came easily enough. Then, in the fall of my junior year, a pretty blond taught me about a broken heart. I quit school at Christmas break. It was the early 1980s and Oregon was still deep in a recession. For a while, I went fishing. Soon there was no money for gas, so I took a swing shift job at the egg processing plant where I had worked summers while in school. Meanwhile, I looked for surveying work in the mornings. The office of the nearest surveyor had closed because of the recession. My next stop was to check with the Clackamas County Surveyor. No jobs were open there. On the way in, I noticed a private surveyor’s office. On the way out, I stopped for a visit with Russ Lawrence. Nothing there either. Then I had a thought: I have a swing shift job. “I will work for you free in the mornings just to get experience,” I offered to Mr. Lawrence. I worked for a while for free and soon had a paying job as an instrument man. I could have gotten a job in the sawmill that paid $4 an hour more, but I wanted to survey. That first job was just the beginning of interactions with mentors who shaped my abilities. From some I learned what to do and others showed me what not to do. Russ Lawrence began teaching me about interpreting deeds and opened my eyes to the liabilities of surveying. John Muenchow taught me about field surveying in the real world, using an EDM that did not take a car battery and hours of calculation. He forever burned into my mind “two times the radius times the sine of the half delta” and how to use a compass as a dip needle when the batteries were dead in the metal detector. Here too, I learned about construction staking in the cold and driving rain at the Portland Airport in February (so much for my thoughts on the niceties of surveying). At my next stop, Bill Shull gave me opportunities to see the national forest in new ways and increased my ability to set up a tripod anywhere. He also taught me, in unforgettable and unrepeatable language, how to recognize a bearing tree blaze. There were further lessons in care for equipment and weighing the costs of returning versus leaving equipment forgotten at the last corner (that cost me a plumb bob). Back in the Portland area, Russ Lawrence, Wade Donovan, and Dick Drinkwater expanded my abilities in efficient, productive construction staking. A crack at startup business with Centerline Concepts Inc. positioned me to pass the PLS exam on the first try, taught me things not to do, and left me with little else to show for my 14- or 15-hour days. After this hopping around, I landed back with Bill Shull at Azimuth Surveying. By this time, Bill had become an exceptionally good boundary surveyor and continued to mentor and oversee my work for the first 13 years after I was licensed. During that time, I met Kent Inman, who was the Marion County survey and plat reviewer. Our similar, competitive personalities and concern for being right led to iron continuesT