ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
James H. “Tony” Brosemer of Florence is 78, an age when the majority of people are enjoying their retirement.
Not Brosemer. He was named the 2004 Kansas Surveyor of the Year by the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors.
Few people would have the lifelong knowledge that Brosemer does of Marion County real estate-or of land in all of Kansas because he has the distinction of having done land surveys in all 105 Kansas counties.
Melany Pearce, executive secretary of KSLS, said Brosemer’s experience in all of Kansas is “an achievement realized by few others.”
Not only that, she said, Brosemer “literally wrote the design survey manual” for Kansas that is still in use.
Brosemer began working for the State of Kansas when he returned from a World War II military assignment in which he was the gunner on a B-29 airplane.
He said being on the aircraft crew didn’t necessarily help him in geometry or trigonometry for survey work.
“You didn’t have to be good at math, you just had to be physically alive,” he said with a smile.
Brosemer added that aircraft crewmen did have to be among the more physically fit with above average eyesight-traits that would help anybody do survey work.
Pearce said Brosemer has accomplished more than his modesty would imply.
“He held the position of survey party chief for the Kansas Department of Transportation for 42 years,” she said.
“Among his many accomplishments, he single-handedly indexed the original general land office field books, and was instrumental in their preservation.
“One of the founding members of KSLS, Mr. Brosemer has held many offices within the organization including president, and has spent most of his career teaching and acting as a mentor to many of the Kansas surveyors practicing today.
“He is a venerated instructor, and draws a large audience at any KSLS sponsored seminar.”
Brosemer and his wife, Phyllis, now deceased, moved back to Florence after his retirement in 1987. Brosemer grew up there, attending all 12 years of grade and high school at Florence. It wasn’t unusual during his childhood for people to spend their school career in the same town, he said.
“They were too poor to just leave,” he said.
During his career, Brosemer also lived in Osage and Kingman counties.
He started his own business in Florence after retirement, and he is the only surveyor in Marion County. Despite some health problems, Brosemer said he plans to keep on working.
“I’m not much on sitting around,” he said.
Pearce said that Brosemer’s work “continues to impact the surveying profession in Kansas.”
His son, Steven Brosemer, owns GeoTech Surveying in Emporia. His son-in-law, George Meisner, is a district surveyor for the Kansas Department of Transportation headquarters in Hutchinson. His grandson, Tyler Jantz, son of Julie Jantz, Florence, is working in the field for a KDOT design survey crew.
Brosemer has two men working with him: Troy Moore, Florence, and Danny Bowman, Marion. They do more of the leg work while Brosemer handles more of the office and supervisory work in consideration of his health.
Moore will test his knowledge from working under Brosemer taking the state licensing examination soon. Although educational opportunities are available, such as at the Kansas State University campus in Salina, Brosemer said, “There is no substitute for working in the field.”
When licensing requirements began in 1968, Brosemer said it was done on the basis of past experience. Then the examination was added, and after the first of the year some college time will be required. He said there are also continuing education requirements.
The technology is changing too. Brosemer said what used to take a three-man crew 12 hours to do now takes two hours with equipment such as a global positioning system with readings from satellite.
“Of course the principles are the same, and judgment still is important too.
“A GPS system for a surveyor costs over $30,000 just for a mediocre one,” he said. “The good ones are over $40,000.”
So, he said, the costs of being a surveyor are going up while “we don’t sell anything but our time.”
When Brosemer began work with KDOT, his work mostly was surveying new roads, building the highway system of Kansas.
Now, just as it has always been in non-governmental work, most of Brosemer’s surveys are done for housing sites, including subdivisions, and agricultural interests.
“It’s always been that way,” he said.
He is “a familiar face” to many people who work at the Marion County Courthouse because, unknown to many people who benefit from his work, a survey job usually requires from a half-hour to five hours in the courthouse before the field work begins.
Brosemer said a surveyor not only has to be familiar with the history and conditions of the property being worked with, but also with all the Kansas statutory laws regarding real estate that he is required to work under.
He said state laws direct how he works, and what he does.
“We’re directed by Kansas statute how to subdivide a section of land.”
A small parcel of property for a home may take longer, and therefore cost more, to survey than a section of 640 acres, a quarter-section of 160 acres, or the standard 80 acres.
“It’s all a matter of how much time it takes,” he said.
Once Brosemer puts down survey stakes, it’s illegal for anybody not involved with the property to pull the stakes. If you paid for a survey, and another person pulls the stakes, you may go to an attorney to force that person to pay for a new survey.
“Pulling a surveyor’s stakes is a Class D misdemeanor,” Brosemer said, “but it’s often done.”
When you’re surveying land, you’re always working with the history of the area, Brosemer said.
“The prime meridian in Marion County was surveyed in 1856,” he said. “Then most of the county was subdivided into sections in 1857.
“When they surveyed then, they always put monuments into the ground to mark the sections. Here they used stones. They marked the stones, and left them.
“They wrote word by word in county records of how they did it, and what they did. The history of those surveys on down are what we’re interested in.”
Brosemer said when it comes to finding the monument stones to do new surveys from, “sometimes it’s easy to find them, and sometimes it’s not.”
“We may have to get a blade or backhoe in to dig them up to find them,” he said.
Sometimes the stones aren’t found, and Brosemer must proceed from more distant markers.
All of the title searches and the surroundings people will live under depend on Brosemer and his fellow surveyors getting their work done right, an accomplishment for which he is now being recognized.