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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner - David Arbeit
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MN GIS/LIS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

David Arbeit (2012)

David Arbeit arrived in Minnesota in 1994 to direct the Land Management Information Center. During the next eighteen years he guided LMIC’s transformation from a project-focused organization facing persistent budgetary and organizational challenges to a legislatively authorized Geospatial Information Office dedicated to improving services statewide through the coordinated, affordable, reliable and effective use of GIS. David was named Minnesota’s first Geospatial Information Officer in 2009 and served in that capacity until his retirement in April, 2012.

David’s leadership was rooted in his commitment to a comprehensive and coordinated implementation of GIS supported by stakeholder collaboration based on technical standards and shared resources. He sustained that vision through challenging times marked by dramatic government restructuring and downsizing, three departmental changes, and draconian budget and staffing reductions, finally achieving cabinet-level recognition of GIS as a core technology and legislative authorization for MnGeo. MnGeo began reporting to the State’s Chief Information Officer in 2011 and is now poised to fulfill David’s vision.

David’s career spanned more than forty years in academic, research, and local and state government settings focusing on the practical applications of spatial modeling and GIS. As a graduate student at Cornell University, he contributed to the development of early spatial modeling and analysis software. Later, he taught GIS at Georgia Tech and the University of Illinois and developed and managed a comprehensive GIS program for Austin, TX. David was an active member of URISA, presenting at conferences, serving on the URISA Journal Editorial Board, teaching GIS workshops, and serving on its Board of Directors between 1990 and 1992.

But David’s most important contributions were made in Minnesota. Working closely with his staff and colleagues, he led or championed many of the signature initiatives and projects that have established Minnesota as a shining example for GIS collaboration and innovation. Many of these have been highlighted through David’s service as Minnesota’s representative to the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC). David actively supported the Governor’s Council on Geographic Information, relying upon it for guidance about LMIC priorities and often leading its initiatives. He actively promoted establishment of the Minnesota Geographic Data Clearinghouse and enterprise data and service sharing strategies developed by Council committees and work groups. David’s steadfast commitment to collaborative data development based upon statewide standards and widespread availability of geospatial data without restrictions are reflected in many of Minnesota’s statewide data programs and distribution policies. To reduce licensing costs and promote widespread adoption of standardized software, David negotiated the state’s first enterprise license agreement with Esri, with costs shared by all participating agencies. David played a key role in establishing and nurturing MetroGIS, serving as advisor to the Metropolitan Council, first chair of the MetroGIS Coordinating Committee, and helping secure grant funding for MetroGIS initiatives.

These contributions only partially describe David’s contributions, but they illustrate the extent to which he has earned his place on Minnesota’s GIS Honor Roll. The strong foundation that David engineered will support the success of our Minnesota geospatial community far into the future. 


2012 Lifetime Award recipient David Arbeit with the MN GIS/LIS
Chair Ben Verbick and Awards Committee Chair Mark Kotz.

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