Annette Theroux Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Annette Theroux

Annette Theroux, former President & CEO of Pro-West until her retirement in 2019, has been awarded the Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium's 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating her passion, public service and leadership throughout her 25-year career in GIS.

Annette led numerous GIS efforts that contributed to the greater good of the residents and industry in Minnesota, the results of which are tangible and continue to deliver for our state and its communities. These contributions were, without exception, delivered to the highest standard, with Annette's trademark grace, collaboration, and determination.

Annette’s career started with the USDA Forest Service on the Chippewa National Forest. A short time later, she joined Pro-West & Associates, where she worked for 24 years. She started as a technician, became an owner of Pro-West, and worked her way to President & CEO. All the while, Annette gave voice to Greater Minnesota's GIS perspective in a professional and effective way. Her service was particularly valuable during her tenure on the Governor’s Council on Geographic Information.

Annette’s work in our industry and passion for advancing GIS in Minnesota extended far beyond those projects. She developed countless people and their careers, always made time for individuals looking to start or advance their careers in GIS and lectured at Bemidji State University as an Adjunct Professor, contributing to growing a sustainable community of GIS professionals to continue the high standard of GIS in Minnesota.

Annette’s work in our industry and passion for advancing GIS in Minnesota extended far beyond those projects. She developed countless people and their careers, always made time for individuals looking to start or advance their careers in GIS and lectured at Bemidji State University as an Adjunct Professor, contributing to growing a sustainable community of GIS professionals to continue the high standard of GIS in Minnesota.

Annette’s fingerprints can be found almost everywhere within Minnesota's well-developed GIS ecosystem - from her work with small communities throughout the state to her contributions to statewide standards and policies. Always thoughtful, creative, and dedicated to collaboration, Annette shone in every role and setting - truly a star.

The staff of Pro-West & Associates is honored to have worked with and been mentored by Annette over the years. Her leadership, expertise and the time and opportunities she shared with our team have been important on both professional and personal levels. We have been privileged to see first-hand the impact of all that she achieved throughout her career and congratulate her on a thoroughly well deserved award. 

Award Ceremony

Annette will receive her award at this year's MN GIS/LIS Consortium Annual Conference via a virtual ceremony, Friday, October 29th at 12:30pm.

More information about the award and previous winners can be found here.

Q&A With Annette

With involvement in many organizations and areas of GIS, Annette has seen a great the GIS industry grow and change over the course of her career and achievements. Read more below!

Q. Your award recognizes "lifetime achievement". Of what achievements in your career are you most proud?

A. First, working to advance a small business and people – the most valuable and unique aspect of Pro-West are the people who work there. I am gratified to have had the opportunity to provide individual career growth and further the company’s progressive technology services.

Second, I learned so much about collaboration between agencies (local, state, federal); what was needed and how efforts could be successful. I worked with great mentors in the GIS community who were pioneers in data standards and data development. I was able to contribute to data sharing standards that addressed technology and institutional barriers.

Q. What are the most memorable moments from your career?

A. When I started in GIS in the 1990s, we talked about needing to reinvent our work and business about every 3 years. Location technology now evolves so rapidly that reinvention happens about every 3 months. The growth of GIS in our everyday lives has been phenomenal.

Back in the “old days” of plotting maps on paper, we often had multiple plotters running at the same time to provide updated information for clients. After one particularly successful day of plotting, which meant no paper jams, no mistakes in digitized data, and no problems running an SML or AML, we memorialized the day by calling it “that one Tuesday when everything worked”.  From that time on, when we had a particularly successful day for any type of GIS work someone would remark “remember that one Tuesday when everything worked?”

Q. What's the most significant change you've seen in the GIS industry over the course of your career?

A. I started working in the GIS field when specialized technical skills were required to create and analyze information. Now GIS has evolved into a location technology that is ubiquitous across all aspects of our daily lives and easily accessible and used by anyone.

Q. How have you seen GIS advance here in Minnesota in that time?

A. Collaboration for data development and sharing in Minnesota is now common place. 20-25 years ago the focus was on funding development and overcoming barriers to simply develop base layer data and exchange information with other agencies.

Q. Part of the award criteria was contributing to the greater good of Minnesota residents through GIS. In what way have you seen GIS impact the lives of ordinary citizens?

A. GIS was seen as just a map tool to support other fields of work when I began my career. In the past twenty years, GIS has grown to fuel emergency response at all levels of government, navigation on our cell phones, inventory and planning for sustainable natural resources, management of our infrastructure, and automation of processes.

Q. What advice would you give to a GIS professional looking to grow their career?

A. Look for opportunities to intern, volunteer and learn.

Q. After a 25-year career in GIS, you retired in 2019. How is retirement going, and what have you been up to?

A. My husband, Gary, and I have done some traveling in the U.S. but our plans for international travel have been postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Staying around home more has given us valuable time with our grandchildren and family, and time to get lost occasionally in the Minnesota Northwoods.

About Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium

The Minnesota GIS/LIS Consortium is a forum for communicating information to, and improving cooperation among, those interested in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Land Information Systems (LIS) in the State of Minnesota.

The Consortium hosts annual statewide conferences and workshops, collaborates to recognize outstanding contributions of members and organizations, provides grants to support students and community-organized activities, and establishes committees that deal with specific GIS/LIS-related matters in Minnesota.