A Tribute to My Friend and Mentor: Brent Boitano

Econtalk, my all-time favorite podcast, had an episode in July with guest Ryan Holiday that talked about the need for humility and a recognition that others contribute a great deal to what we are able to accomplish.

After I heard that podcast I resolved to regularly think about and recognize how others have helped me be successful as a land surveyor (which is how I provide materially for my family). I hoped this would be a concrete effort on my part to cultivate a little more humility, which is a quality I could certainly practice more. In my last post on this topic, I recognized my dad Randy Blake for the training he gave me. In this post, I’d like to thank and recognize my friend and land surveying mentor Brent Boitano.

I started working with Brent as a rodman on a 2 man survey field crew right out of college. I was eager to learn and wanted to work hard, but I didn’t have a clue about how to do my job. Brent was an outstanding survey party chief. He was also a hard worker and had high expectations for me. His high expectations were tempered with a willingness to teach me. Everything I have learned about being a good field surveyor, I learned from Brent Boitano. This includes the simplest things, like how to paint and flag stakes, to the complicated, like how to select the best control layout and survey method to execute a field survey. Brent also taught me how to search for property corner monuments, a skill that is easily underestimated by people outside of the land surveying profession. As a property corner monument hound, Brent Boitano is second to none. He was always willing to dig that hole in 105-degree summer heat to find the monument they needed back in the office.

My CAD skills and comfort with a computer meant I had less time as Brent’s rodman than I should have. I was quickly moved into the office, or running a field crew of my own. I wish I could have benefited from more time as his rodman.

Almost a decade later, Brent and I had the chance to work together again. He joined my team as my field crew coordinator at O’Dell Engineering. It was a tremendous pleasure it was to have an old friend at my side once again. I’ll never forget that.

Brent has always put my interests ahead of his own. He has also always offered honest advice. I’ve seen him willing to risk his own life to save mine in dangerous situations. I’ll be eternally grateful that I had Brent as my first party chief. Many surveyors don’t get that type of privilege on their first gig painting stakes, charging batteries, and pounding wooden hubs.

If you are a party chief today, follow Brent’s example. Work hard. Set high expectations. Patiently teach. Put the welfare of your coworkers ahead of your own. Most importantly: Be a good friend. Your rodman will never forget that, no matter where he ends up in life or career.