After nearly two years of turbulence at the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), the group took significant steps forward in Gaithersburg, Md., according to several surveying professionals who attended its spring meetings.

A general membership vote on Saturday morning, April 13, approved procedural changes to the NSPS bylaws which allowed 22 states to be admitted under the NSPS 100 percent joint membership program, with at least a dozen more en route to joining. The joint membership program means that individuals already signed up for their state societies will now have national representation for an additional $40 per year – a rate that fell from $225 for an individual before the joint membership initiative.

The vote expanded the membership roles of NSPS from less than 3,000 to more than 10,000. Assuming the next dozen states and the District of Columbia sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU) to join NSPS – each of those entities has already approved the measure by board or membership vote – membership in NSPS will grow to about 20,000, said NSPS Executive Director Curtis W. Sumner.

“I don’t know if flabbergasted is the right word, but I’m pleasantly surprised that that’s the way it turned out,” Sumner said from the group’s headquarters in Frederick, Md., on April 16. “Momentum seems to be pretty strong with some of the other states. In addition to the 22, (there’s) probably a dozen or so that is in some process of reviewing the MOU. It’s quite remarkable, actually. … It was a momentous day for us.”

Sumner has every right to be pleased. The group has embarked on a frenzied pace to reinvigorate its brand, following a chaotic merger with the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) and the fracturing of other groups such as the American Association of Geodetic Surveying.

The idea to offer 100 percent joint membership was first considered by the NSPS board of directors last spring and approval came in the fall. That’s when Sumner and his staff began reaching out to the state societies with the goal of integrating them into the national organization.

One of the main benefits of joint membership is that each state has a seat on the NSPS board of directors. There are now 38 members of the board, including the old board, officers and 10 area directors. Area directors will be eliminated, one by one, as more states join.

J. Anthony “Tony” Cavell, NSPS governor/director from Louisiana, said attending the meetings gave him a renewed sense of “enthusiasm and optimism” for the national organization.

“The 100% membership program is far ahead of (the) expected rate of acceptance and subscription,” he said. “This was reinforced Sunday when the board of directors met as a much-enlarged body with great participation dispatching the business at hand in a very thorough, yet very efficient manner.”

Although some have criticized the national organization for forcing the state societies to consider joint membership, Donald T. Poole, PLS, owner of Outermost Land Survey of Brewster, Mass., said he was so much in favor of it, he made a motion to accept the NSPS offer at Massachusetts’ annual meeting. Massachusetts ultimately signed the MOU and now has a seat on the NSPS board.

“I think that the state organizations will become stronger,” Poole said. “The dual membership is a huge draw to surveyors everywhere.”

Ultimately, more states will join in time, as they must follow their own procedures for acceptance, whether that is a board vote or a membership vote. Not a single state has rejected the NSPS offer or responded negatively thus far, according to an April 10 update of a map outlining the process.

Sumner said some states are still educating what joint membership means to their members and how it will benefit them. One benefit, he said, is that joint membership gives state societies a voice nationally that they may not have had before.

“The overall goal for this was to create strength,” he said. “It wasn’t created to be a major money-making activity. If that were the case, the dues wouldn’t have gone (down).”

Joint membership wasn’t the only item on the NSPS agenda, however. The expanded group participated in a lively discussion about the questionnaire that was circulated to surveying professionals earlier this year about the path forward for NSPS. John M. Palatiello & Associates, the public affairs firm contracted to NSPS for government relations and lobbying services, led the discussion.

NSPS used information from the questionnaire to begin the strategic-planning process. Those discussions included a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the ideas presented. Every state was represented. The data was delivered to NSPS representatives who were invited to indicate agreement, indifference or disagreement with each item. Sumner said the results are being analyzed, and preliminary findings are expected to be released within a week.

“It was a great exercise, I think, because we were able to have live discussions back and forth with each other, not only about these issues that were listed on the poll, but also the various perspectives from different parts of the country in terms of the direction for the organization,” Sumner said.

A. Richard “Rich” Vannozzi, PLS, an assistant professor in civil technology/surveying and mapping at the University of New Hampshire, said he was particularly pleased that individuals stepped forward to work on the NSPS Education Plan, an effort to examine the policies, priorities and possibilities of educating surveyors going forward.

“The tone of this past weekend’s national meetings … was positive and energizing,” he said. “The surveying profession can sometimes move slowly and cautiously – I think it is our professional nature – but once they know they are on the right track, they roll up their sleeves and get the job done.”

Frank Lenik, PLS, Delaware Valley representative for Leica Geosystems in Woodstown, N.J., agreed. “There was a palpable feeling of renewed energy and commitment, an incredible camaraderie which I think portends good things to come.”