A Tribute To My Friend And Mentor: Brett Setness

There is a great Econtalk podcast with Ryan Holiday on recognizing the contributions that others make to our success. After hearing that podcast, I resolved to regularly consider men and women in my life who helped me. They could have helped me reach important accomplishments or develop as a professional.

Today I want to recognize my mentor Brett Setness.

About Brett Setness

Brett Setness is one of the best boundary surveyors I know. There may not be another land surveyor in Central California with his skill at:

  1. Creating large-scale land nets (parcel fabrics) for infrastruture projects.
  2. Managing the land surveyor’s role in the right-of-way acquisition process.
  3. Performing boundary surveys in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.
  4. Surveying levee right-of-way in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.
  5. Solving problems related to tide lands, swamp and overflowed lands and riparian boundaries in Central California.

What Brett Setness Taught Me

Brett is the person that is most responsible for developing my own skills as a boundary surveyor. He was also by far the greatest influence on my style of boundary surveying. Here are a few of the things I learned from Brett Setness:

  • How to COGO (draft) deeds and maps in AutoCAD.
  • How to read and interpret filed survey maps.
  • How to read and interpret deed land descriptions.
  • How to read and use a land title report and tax assessor maps.
  • How to draft record-of-survey maps.
  • How to evaluate measurements and other evidence of boundary location.
  • How to resolve boundaries.
  • How to map easements.
  • How to work on lot-line-adjustments and land subdivision.
  • How to prepare large-scale land nets (parcel fabric drawings).

The Most Important Thing I Learned From Brett Setness

What is the most important thing I learned from Brett?

He taught me not to overturn the surveyor that came before me because I thought I had a better solution. (I was ready to do that a lot.)

It is important for land surveyors to have humility when retracing boundary surveyors. Brett taught me to ask these questions when performing a boundary survey:

  • Do you have all the data?
  • Have you considered all the available evidence?
  • Have you assumed any error present is yours and not the other surveyor’s?
  • Is it possible the surveyor you are retracing had evidence available to him that isn’t now available to you?
  • Have land owners and others relied on the previous survey or the monuments set by the previous surveyor?
  • Is there a reasonable solution to the boundary resolution of the subject parcel that allows us to solve (rather than create) problems?

This was an essential lesson I needed to learn. I’m grateful Brett was wise enough and humble enough to appreciate that lesson, and to then teach it to me. He is a huge reason why I’m a successful boundary surveyor today.