Minnesota’s new GIS chief wants local government cooperation

Written by Colin Wood

The Minnesota state government has announced a new leader for its geographic information systems efforts, promoting Alison Slaats, former supervisor of the Minnesota Office of Geospatial Information, as the new Chief Information Officer. geospatial.

Slaats, who took office on May 11, replaced Dan Ross, who resigned last January. Drawing on a 25-year career in GIS spanning the private and public sectors, Slaats told StateScoop that beyond continuing Ross’ work to support geospatial efforts within state government, she is particularly interested in working with local governments.

Alison Slaats (LinkedIn)

“My particular interest and reason for coming to MnGeo in the first place was actually because I really care about collaborating and coordinating with our local partners to bring together fundamental datasets at scale. ‘State,’ Slaats said.

Slaats has worked in the offices of Minnesota IT Services for the past decade. Previously, his career included teaching at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, working as an analyst for the University of Minnesota, an instructor role at Esri, and spending five years as a project manager at SharedGeo, an advocacy group Non-profit GIS.

In state government, Slaats said her office’s work with local governments entails important work — as an example, she proposed routine county plot data collection.

“We compile this data quarterly and put it into a statewide standard that we have for package tax data, and then we distribute that data to all state agencies,” a- she declared. “So this is an example where we’re hoping to reduce the time that counties spend answering ten calls from ten different state agencies that need the same data.”

She said her office earlier this year also shared a subset of that data on the Minnesota Geospatial Commons, a website that hosts nearly 1,000 datasets shared by 47 organizations across the state. Coordinating with local governments and sharing their data is important, she said, because those counties are the arbiters of the authoritative troves of information used by all levels of government to make far-reaching decisions.

“What really brought me to GIS is really that GIS is a great decision-making tool and we know that many of the questions and problems that we face around the world have a geographic component and when you have good geospatial data and you have good GIS tools, you can really bring it together to empower business experts, policy makers, leaders and the public to make better decisions about their lives,” Slaats said.