22-year-old Brownstown grad set for position

During his junior year at Brownstown Central High School, Conner Barnette worked for a local land surveying business.

He was able to go underground, in the woods and on people’s property to do different types of surveying.

That experience helped him determine if it was the type of job he wanted to turn into a career.

After earning his high school diploma in 2012, Barnette went on to earn an associate degree in land surveying from Vincennes University.

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He returned to his hometown in 2014 to work for Foresight Land Surveying in a full-time capacity, later took a job in the county surveyor’s office and now is the county’s new building commissioner.

“I had interest in it right off the bat,” Barnette, 22, said of the building commissioner position. “But a lot of it, I wasn’t 100 percent sure what this office entailed, to be honest with you.”

In his previous jobs, Barnette interacted with the previous building commissioner, Mike Weir, on different occasions. Talking to Weir, Brad McPike in the surveyor’s office and Dan Blann, who is the county surveyor and operates Foresight Land Surveying, helped Barnette get a better feel for the job responsibilities.

“I did a lot of research, did a lot of reading up on the ordinances and stuff online, tried to get as much information on it as I could before I applied,” Barnette said.

He then felt confident enough to go for the job. He was among four people who went through interviews, which he said was tough.

“They were all really good, fair questions, but some of them were a little more in-depth than what you would expect,” Barnette said. “All I had been through was maybe a couple of scholarship interviews at college whenever we were applying for some stuff. That was a little less low key than what this was.”

He said he was excited when he learned he landed the job and appreciated the guidance and support he received from people encouraging him to apply.

“I’ve just got a lot of good people surrounding me, so that makes it a lot easier for the transition to go a lot smoother,” he said. “I was fortunate enough Mike stuck with me for two weeks and helped me out, and then I’ve got a lot of people that really are there to help me.”

Barnette said he initially was drawn toward land surveying when a couple of his friends in high school who worked in that field said they enjoyed it.

“I went and just kind of dabbled in it part time in the summers,” he said. “They do a wide variety of stuff. The main thing is you get to be outside a lot, so that kind of drew my interest, and I decided to go to school for that.”

Barnette said the experience he gained while working for Blann and Travis Norman at Foresight Land Surveying paid off in college.

“When I went to school, I had a lot better understanding as to what I was doing than some of those other (students),” he said. “Dan kind of threw me to the wolves ever since I was there. It’s just kind of the way he teaches, and it really, really benefited me down in school and taking this position and with everything I’ve done.”

When time allowed, Barnette continued to work for Foresight Land Surveying during college. It was a bonus knowing he had a full-time job lined up there once he graduated.

“It’s a really good program at Vincennes, but there’s usually only nine to 10 guys in it,” he said. “It’s a small program, and pretty much everybody has a job coming out with it being that small, but you don’t know where you’re going. That was the biggest benefit knowing I had such a great company to come back and work for and be a mile from my house.”

In June 2015, Blann had an opening for a field manager in the surveyor’s office, and Barnette filled it. In that position, he also served as the secretary for the county drainage board.

Barnette worked in that office until the first part of December, when he became building commissioner.

Fortunately, he was familiar with several of the responsibilities of his new position since he dealt with them in his previous jobs. That includes dealing with the floodplain, flood maps, building permits and GIS.

His experience is helping him put the building permit system and flood maps on the GIS. The public can now go online, click on a property and see a cover page, cover sheet, property card, building permit application, site sketch, site design, survey, flood map and septic and driveway permits.

“It’s all in one file right there, and it’s attached to the property,” Barnette said. “Anything that comes into this office, we really refer to that GIS a lot. It makes it nice where it’s all in one place.”

Other county departments use the GIS to input a variety of information available to the public.

Barnette said he has several other plans, including putting a building permit application on the county website so people can fill it out online and email it to him for review. He also wants to put meeting minutes and other information online.

“Just make it all accessible right there online to where it’s easier for the public to kind of know what they are getting into before they come in,” he said.

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Name: Conner Barnette

Age: 22

Hometown: Brownstown

Residence: Brownstown

Education: Brownstown Central High School (2012); Vincennes University (associate degree in land surveying, 2014)

Occupation: Recently hired as the Jackson County building commissioner

Family: Parents, Jennifer and Joe Barnette; siblings, Jordan Barnette and Ally Barnette