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Aug 13

City Surveyor: Taking the Measure of the City

Posted on August 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Communications Office

Patty CannonPatty Cannon, who served as our City Surveyor for the past seven years, grew up watching her father lead the survey group at Santa Clara County. She always enjoyed math, especially trigonometry, and liked the idea of being outdoors in the field.

“I was always interested in surveying,” said Patty. “It was outdoor work, and I found it fascinating to take the measure of our world and making sure that maps and reality were in alignment.”

The City Surveyor is a critical position in Public Works who ensures that the City knows exactly what pieces of land are being sold, bought, developed, subdivided, or built on – whether a parcel is hundreds of acres or merely a few square feet.

When Patty graduated with a degree in civil engineering from San José State in the early 1990s, the economy was in a downturn and job prospects were slim. She took a job designing highways for a private consulting firm, but her real desire was always to become a professional surveyor.

She got her break in 2003 when her husband saw the posting for an Associate Engineer position in the City’s Surveying Section. She accepted the job for the learning opportunity and aimed her transit at getting her surveyor’s license.

After gaining the two years of required experience and passing a difficult exam, Patty achieved her goal. She became City Surveyor in 2006, with 13 field crew positions under her leadership.

The Survey Section’s customers include construction projects, real estate activities, planners, buyers and sellers, and developers and managers. Accuracy and responsiveness are critically important. Whether working with internal or external customers, whether public or private, Patty prides herself on being oriented to good customer service.

“Customer service at the consulting firm was a mantra for everyone – it could make or break the business,” she said. “It’s also true for the City. Although we have many skilled employees, it’s essential that all our staff continue to make customer service a core skill.”

Patty has found the City offers great opportunities to learn and to move up. As she has mapped her career journey, she’s developed new skills for navigating the organization.

“It’s true that we have our share of red tape, but the longer I’ve been here, the more I can find ways to bridge perspectives to move projects forward,” she said. “I can help the engineers and managers communicate what’s most important to them and, in turn, better relate the information to the Budget Office which reviews projects from an organization-wide outlook.’”

Patty was recently promoted from City Surveyor to Division Manager of Engineering Services. She now gets to recruit the next City Surveyor and share her years of institutional knowledge and practical experience.

“I’m looking forward to new challenges, and to the opportunity to be a mentor to our next surveyor. It’s an important job that most people aren’t aware of, yet every street, every building, every project we have depends on it.”

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