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Charles Altendorf: Helping people through the power of location

Updated: Mar 29


Explore the captivating realm of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with Charles as he unveils its transformative power beyond static mapping tools. Delve into dynamic public engagement and real-time data management, where GIS evolves into a living system shaped by field crews' contributions. Charles' insights reveal the pivotal role of GIS in modern-day mapping and data management, sparking excitement for widespread adoption. Follow his journey from roles at Hardin County Water District to President at the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals, witnessing his passion for turning data into actionable insights and fostering community connections. Join Charles in embracing resilience, humility, and continuous learning to shape the future of GIS.

""GIS people need to turn to stewardship and governance and I think we need to recognize our role in putting policy around data."

GIS: A Dynamic Tool for Modern Mapping

Charles sheds light on the transformative power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as more than just static mapping tools. In our conversation, he emphasized how GIS has evolved into a dynamic tool for public engagement and real-time data management. With field crews continuously contributing data, GIS has become a living system, constantly improving maps and enhancing public interaction. Despite the challenges of integrating public engagement into GIS, Charles is excited about the widespread adoption of mapping technology, highlighting its pivotal role in modern-day mapping and data management.

Background: Charles' Journey in GIS

Having held significant roles in organizations like Hardin County Water District and Kentucky American Water, Charles brings a wealth of experience to the table. His recent appointment as president of the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals underscores his expertise and leadership within the GIS community. Throughout our discussion, Charles emphasized the transformative impact of GIS beyond its technical aspects, highlighting its role as a philosophy rooted in interconnectedness and spatial cognition. He discussed the challenges and opportunities of integrating spatial thinking into various disciplines, citing potential cost savings and operational enhancements.

Passion: Turning Data into Actionable Insights

Charles finds immense satisfaction in transforming raw, disorganized data into valuable insights that benefit society. His passion lies in taking flawed or useless data and turning it into something impactful. He shared examples of projects where GIS significantly improved accuracy, streamlined operations, and had tangible benefits for customers. For Charles, GIS is more than just a career; it's a deeply fulfilling vocation driven by the tangible impact it has on people's lives.

Action: Building Relationships and Giving Back

The most rewarding aspect for Charles lies in the relationships he's built within the GIS community. As president of the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals, seeing membership renewals and new additions fills him with pride and optimism. He emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community and paying it forward by mentoring undergraduates and supporting fellow professionals. Charles believes that GIS has the power to unite people from diverse backgrounds and foster collaboration.

Tenacity: Overcoming Challenges with Creativity

Reflecting on his journey, Charles acknowledges the initial struggles he faced, including doubts about his career path. However, he seized opportunities and demonstrated remarkable ingenuity in finding solutions to complex problems. From teaching himself new software to devising unconventional approaches to data management, Charles exemplifies resilience and determination. His story serves as a testament to the importance of perseverance and adaptability in the GIS field.

Humility: Embracing Continuous Learning

Charles reflects on how his journey in GIS has humbled him over the years. He emphasizes the importance of humility and openness to learning from others in the ever-evolving GIS field. Charles sees the future of GIS evolving towards greater impact on everyday life, with data governance and ethics becoming increasingly important. He stresses the need for GIS professionals to act as stewards of data, ensuring its integrity and responsible use. Overall, Charles' journey underscores the value of humility, continuous learning, and ethical leadership in shaping the future of GIS.

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