Damon Pettitt, GIS Coordinator, Albemarle County
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born and raised on the streets of Northern Virginia.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I went to college at UVa and decided to not think about moving anywhere different after my third year. It helped that I started dating my future wife who didn’t have any inclinations to go anywhere else either.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
I live in Fry’s Spring.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
I have one wife, two kids, and a cat.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I graduated from UVa in 1996.
What were you doing before you came to work for the county?
I was temping for the credit card department of Jefferson National Bank here in Charlottesville. The bank is no longer around, but I am! Just before that, I was thinking I would be a gardener at Monticello, but thankfully they convinced me otherwise.
Your job title is GIS Coordinator – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
A few years ago, someone asked me what my role at the County was. I told them that my job was to help make government more efficient through GIS*. The room (and perhaps some of your readers now) erupted into laughter, but I wasn’t trying to be funny. I’m very fortunate that my job allows me to organize information that helps people make the most informed decisions about Albemarle County.
*For the uninitiated, GIS (Geographic Information System) is a system of computer hardware and software that links mapping and tabular information together to allow for visualization, analysis, and quality control of information – any information, really, with a geographic component.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part is being involved in an industry (GIS) that constantly evolves. So one day, you may have a problem to solve that can’t be easily solved with current technology or methods. But then a new version of the software is released or a different technique is explored and you can now figure things out. Then, you get to move on to the next challenge and build on what you’ve just accomplished.
The most difficult part is figuring out how to pack 10+ hours of work into an 8 hour day. I’ve heard this can’t be done, but I’m not convinced.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Our office handles the road naming and addressing for all named roads and addressable structures in the County to aid, primarily, in emergency service dispatching. Having policies and procedures in place to ensure consistency and making sure we root out errors should make Albemarle County a safer place. On the GIS side of things, we do have our GIS-Web site that anyone can use to find out a lot about Albemarle County property.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the county?
When I first started working for the County, it was to help clean up the rural route addressing to E911 addressing conversion. I had to do a lot of field work to verify people’s addresses, so it gave me a broad appreciation for all the special places in the County. More recently, I really enjoyed being part of the team to help guide the County through the most recent redistricting process that happens after each decennial census. Working with all the dedicated people from Community Development, the County Attorney’s office, and the Registrar’s office was rewarding, plus the Census Bureau didn’t misallocate* thousands of people like they did in 2000, so the process went a lot more smoothly than 10 years earlier. Pure joy.
*We later learned that they only misallocated 40 people in 2010, much better than 4,000!
What is a little-known fact about you?
I was a very picky eater until college, although I still eschew things containing mayonnaise.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I play Ultimate (aka Ultimate Frisbee), I’m on the board of the Fry’s Spring Beach Club (come check us out!), and I plan and prepare the family dinners (all without the use of mayonnaise – see above).