Florida has just taken itself off a very short list of states that don’t have a designated official for managing geospatial information systems projects.
Ekaterina Fitos is the state’s first geographic information officer, officials confirmed to StateScoop on Friday, and has been working under the state’s Agency for State Technology since Dec. 27. The appointment of a designated GIS official enables the state to apply for federal grant funding for GIS projects and will help to organize disparate uses of the technology already present across state agencies, Florida Chief Technology Officer Eric Larson told StateScoop in August.
Fitos, who started her career as a biological scientist and GIS analyst with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, joins AST now from a position as a senior GIS specialist at construction engineering company CH2M Hill. In the new role, she said, she is charged with coordinating data sharing and streamlining processes for GIS across the state.
But so far, she said, she’s still getting acquainted with her stakeholders and understanding their needs. Fitos said she intends to take a “human-focused” approach as she works with the state’s GIS workgroup and its existing projects.
“There’s a lot [about GIS] that people don’t realize — it’s such a powerful tool,” Fitos said. “You can do a lot of analytical analysis, the spatial component — there’s so much flexibility.”
In addition to finding new ways to make the state’s GIS practices more efficient, Fitos said she is also weighing the utility of purchasing new Esri software licenses for some offices, with an eye on saving the state money.
“In the event that there’s an emergency, let’s say, we want to be able to have information readily available that’s easily accessible and indexed so that you can find what you’re looking for and you can make better decisions,” she said.
Fitos earned her MBA from Saint Leo University and degrees in science and geography from the University of South Florida. Before taking her first role in the private sector, she also served in GIS analyst roles with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, where she said she was a project manager for aerial mapping projects. Fitos is also past president of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.
Fitos said that because she’s only been in the position for a handful of work days, she is still finding where changes to GIS operations can have the greatest positive influence — it just depends on what her stakeholders tell her they need most, she said.
“I’m here to support them, I’m eager to get started and really it’s more of understanding what they need,” Fitos said. “My goal and approach is to understand that before really committing to any sort of plans.”