From the Field
June 1, 2007
As early as age six, William David “Davey” Edwards was destined to be a surveyor. Once his father, Tommy, received professional surveyor certification in 1975, Davey began shadowing him in the field and the office, lending a hand wherever he could. “As soon as I was old enough to hold a plumb bob level and a chain, I was out in the field,” says Edwards, now age 36.
Growing up, Edwards had a natural aptitude for science and math and knew he was destined to pursue a career in a science-related field. “There were a lot of things I wanted to do when I was young,” Edwards says. “In high school, I realized that my strengths were in math and science, so I continued to study those [subjects] through college and beyond.”
Edwards, a proud Texas A&M Aggie supporter, graduated from the College Station-based school with a biomedical science degree in 1994. After graduation, Edwards moved back to his hometown of Decatur near the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and continued to follow in the footsteps of his father and the profession he knew best: surveying.
Motivated by a Unique StateIn 2002, Edwards received licensure to become a registered professional land surveyor (RPLS) in the state of Texas. Two years later, he became certified in the neighboring state of Oklahoma. “I was really interested in boundary surveys and legal principles, specifically for the state of Texas because of the way it ceded into the Union,” Edwards explains. “Unlike any other state, Texas is unique in that it retained its own land and formed its own land office. All of the other original U.S. states gave their land over to the United States when they ceded into the Union.”
Until 1887, county surveyors in Texas did all of the work for the state and the public. In 1919, a constitutional amendment declared that only a licensed state land surveyor could do the work for the state to regulate the surveyor and the product. The state then created an examination for the surveyor interested in becoming a licensed state land surveyor (LSLS). This group is the only one legally qualified to survey Texas state-owned lands or lands in the permanent school fund for the purpose of filing with the General Land Office. An LSLS must reside in the state of Texas and can only be eliminated through amendment of the state’s constitution. In October 2006, Edwards passed the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveyors exam to become a licensed state land surveyor. On average, only six LSLS candidates take the exam each year, and only two people pass. At age 36, Edwards is one of the youngest licensed state land surveyors and is one of only 67 licensed in the state.
Guiding a Focused Firm“After receiving my LSLS designation, I [set] a goal to be more specific with the type of [surveying] work I did,” Edwards says firmly. “I’ve always been interested in the history behind surveying in the state of Texas. My interest is finding original land corners. In doing so, you have to put yourself back in the time when [past surveyors] were laying out lots. You have to place yourself in their shoes and think like them. In our area, for example, surveyors [in the mid-1800s] had to worry about Indian raids and had to travel on horseback with their instrumentation out in the field.”
Now, in 2007, a licensed land surveyor in both Texas and Oklahoma, Edwards continues to work alongside his father as vice president of their surveying firm in Decatur. Edwards Surveying LLC is comprised of two registered land surveyors (Edwards and his father), a retired title abstractor who completes the firm’s research and secretarial work, two employees who run the field crew, and some seasonal help, including college students in engineering or surveying programs. “We typically only have one to two guys in the field at a time,” Edwards says. “We like being a small firm. It allows us to be more selective in the jobs we take.”
Serving a NationIn addition to his duties as a land surveyor in both Texas and Oklahoma, Edwards was also recently certified as a federal land surveyor through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s CFedS program. (For more on this program, see pages 30-34.) In February 2007, Edwards became one of 69 surveyors to be certified through the CFedS program, which allows him to perform survey work on federal lands, in particular, Indian trust lands.
“It wasn’t an easy task,” Edwards says of attaining the CFedS certification. “The course was set up like a college course. We were required to read the material, watch DVD lectures, solve math problems and take a final [exam].” To maintain the certification, Edwards must complete 10-15 hours of continuing education annually--a task he is up for with his dedication and determination.
Serving a StateIn addition to obtaining licensure in two states and achieving CFedS certification, Edwards also plays an active role in the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors (TSPS) and currently serves as the president of its Fort Worth chapter. Throughout his tenure as a surveyor, Edwards has served in every position on the executive committee of the chapter except for secretary/treasurer.
As part of his ongoing dedication to the state of Texas and TSPS, Edwards also spends time as an assistant teacher for TSPS-sponsored boundary retracement courses. “I teach surveyors how to retrace old boundary corners using today’s methods,” Edwards says. “I can tell that people truly enjoy taking the courses, and I thoroughly enjoy my role as a teacher. [The TSPS] has groomed me to teach this course for generations to come. My wife, mother and sister are all teachers, so it’s natural for me to join them in the rankings as a teacher. I enjoy giving back to the community by using my knowledge to help others in the profession.”
Award-Winning AchievementsIn honor of his achievements and time dedicated to the state of Texas, Edwards received the TSPS “Young Surveyor of the Year” award at the annual state convention in Woodlands, Texas, in October 2006. “The award is given to those [under the age of 39] who have given back to the profession,” Edwards says. “I’ve tried to get as much done as I could while I’m young. I surprised myself by being able to accomplish what I have. In the last few years, I’ve been working my way up in the ranks through TSPS’ Fort Worth chapter. Then last year, our local president convinced me to attend the state TSPS board meetings in Austin. I found I fit best in the government affairs committee.” On the committee, Edwards spent time building the RPLS exam prep course, particularly the boundary reconstruction portion. “[It] took several trips to Austin, loads of E-mails and one beta course to create the course,” Edwards explains. “I was truly honored and humbled to receive the award.”
Edwards also maintains that without the help of his father and several peers, he would have never gotten where he is today. “Many people were instrumental in me receiving my LSLS [designation] and my assistant teaching position,” Edwards says. “I couldn’t have been able to achieve all of what I have done on my own.”
Personal AccomplishmentsIn the midst of training to become a surveyor, pursuing his interests in sciences and working toward his bachelor’s degree, Edwards made sure to save time for his personal life. While attending Texas A&M, he met his future wife, Sonja Suzanne South, who was then studying to become a teacher. Seventeen years later, Edwards and his wife are preparing to celebrate their 15th anniversary in the summer along with their eight-year-old son, Ryan.
Despite the many demands placed on him by his surveying firm, TSPS and CFedS, Edwards also finds time to enjoy mountain and road biking and camping with his son. He participates in a surveying-related recreational sport dubbed “orienteering,” which requires participants to plot coordinates using a handheld compass to navigate their way through a race.
Edwards also served on the executive committee for Texas A&M’s Cross Timbers chapter of the Former Students Association in Texas’ Jack, Wise and Montague Counties. As former Texas A&M Aggies, both Edwards and his wife play a monumental role in planning activities and getting former students involved in the chapter.
His Best Foot ForwardWhen asked what the next step is on his fast-paced, fulfilling journey as a father, surveyor and role model in his community, Edwards responds, “When you accomplish so much so soon, a lot is often expected of you.” But he still has an answer: “I’d like to be active with state boards as well as nationally with the CFedS program.” Edwards says the BLM is pushing toward allowing only CFedS-designated surveyors to survey federal lands, including Indian lands or military bases, in the future. “I don’t know exactly where [the CFedS] program will take me, but I do think it will be a necessity in the future.”
Edwards doesn’t plan on stopping there. “I would also like to pursue a doctorate in land surveying as my final goal in my professional career,” he says. “As soon as the master’s program in Geospatial Surveying Engineering at Texas A&M is approved by the Texas Higher Education Committee, I will apply for enrollment.”
Edwards also plans to stay actively involved in his local community to promote the profession for future professionals. And that, of course, includes remaining actively involved with the future of his son. Whether his son will continue along his family lineage and embrace surveying as a career is yet to be determined. “Part of my future goals is not only to continue pursuing my own dreams, but the dreams and goals of my son as well,” Edwards says. “I’d like to do my best to contribute to his dreams and let him experience life to the fullest, just as I have.”