A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Bill Emerson

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Bill Emerson

Before I begin this article, I would like to clarify that a surveyor is not someone who walks around the city and surveys random people. Some may call the aforementioned ‘nosy’ or say that person has ‘nothing better to do.’ But I say that person is curious, and curiosity is embedded in human nature; which is probably how surveying became an occupation.

Exploration is the foundation of surveying. It sounds simple enough, but imagine having to survey 501 square miles of land. I don’t know about you, but personally, I find it difficult to complete the examination portion of surveying my bedroom alone.

Bill Emerson Jr. is the Lake County Surveyor, and he has the daunting task of measuring, and examining, all 501 square miles of the county.

“My office maintains the country GIS system. It’s like an online mapping system. It’s really cool. You can get a lot of information [off of it] flood plains…just a ton of information on our mapping system. We maintain that we also maintain what are called section corners in the county that private surveyors use to base their surveys off of. So we make sure they’re maintained so if someone were to develop it they have a good base point to start their survey from,” Emerson said.

Not only are Emerson and his office responsible for maintaining land in the county, they are also responsible for maintaining miles of drainage in the county.

“The biggest responsibility, and really the most money that we spend, is with our county drainage board. We maintain over 600 miles of regulated drainage, ditches [and] waterways to attempt to keep the water flowing in the county,” Emerson said.

While Emerson is currently involved in Lake County due to his surveyor position, he credits his earlier involvement in local politics.

“I’ve been involved quite a bit, and another reason why I got in there [as a surveyor] is just because I’ve been involved with politics. In Lake County, my dad’s a councilman. So I was his campaign manager for his campaign and I just really enjoyed the whole idea of public service,” Emerson said.

While campaigning is crucial to getting an elected office position, Emerson believes for his particular career that qualifications trump strategy.

“For me, and for this office, it’s really what my qualifications [are]. People want someone with the right education in that office. I think school, that’s a big want in this office. It’s not about rhetoric or anything like that, it’s about what you can bring to the table. I think we’ve done a lot well. We’ve cut our expenses on outside consultants by doing more in-house. We really improved drainage [implanted] in the community and also the quality of life in the community with some sanitary sewer projects we put in. It really solved a lot of problems. I think people want results and they want to see that you’re good at politics to get elected, but then when you get in office you do the job and you’re not all about politics. That what I’m trying to do,” Emerson said.

While a background in politics, a law degree and a degree in engineering all contribute to Emerson’s current career as a surveyor, Emerson discovered his passion for math and science while in high school.

“I had really awesome teachers. Honestly, I can think of so many that made math and science kind of relevant and based in the real world. One thing that really kind of got me going honestly was…I was on the Hammond Robotics team. It’s a really cool program for high school kids to build robots. That kind of stuff really had [an] influence on me,” Emerson said.

An interest in robotics, and an affinity for math and science led Emerson to his career as a surveyor with an engineering degree, and a law degree.