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A Walk Down Memory Lane with qPublic

by John on September 25, 2015

Jim Gear a Property Appraiser, from 1993 to 1996, for Leon County, Florida was tasked to make their property record cards available to the public via a new website. Jim managed to do so and was one of the first in the nation, if not the first, to accomplish this.

After moving to DeLand, Florida in 1996, Jim went to work for the Volusia County Property Appraiser Office, where once again he was asked to put their data online. This time Jim engaged a software engineering class at the Emery Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) to tackle this as a class project. Steve Lehr was the professor for this class at the time and supervised the project. After a few months, the Property Appraiser’s new search capability was fully functional.

A few years later, Jim decided to build these type of websites as a business. Thus, qPublic, LLC was founded in 1999, in DeLand Florida, by Jim Gear, Steve Lehr, Tim Olson, and myself. Jim came out of the Property Assessment world, Steve was our programmer, Tim was the “money man”, and I had been building websites commercially since 1993 – so we had all the pieces to the puzzle to start a business by building websites for Assessors’ offices; and www.qPublic.net was born.  

Our initial marketing efforts were to market to smaller rural counties that desired an online presence, but did not have an IT department or other skilled personnel to build their website in-house.
Jim and I attended our very first IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officials – www.iaao.org) conference September 10-13, 2000, in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. This was the first time we exhibited and our “display” was made from vinyl sign material, and hung from grommets. “QUICK - AFFORDABLE - EASY” was our slogan. Our giveaway items were old-school protractors and compasses. They were actually well received. “Pretty handy if the power goes out!”

The following year, we exhibited at the conference in Miami, September 9-12, 2001. I remember leaving the conference to buy more chocolate candy for the booth, getting lost in a Haitian community, and hearing a news announcement about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. That horrible event changed our country forever and left hundreds of IAAO attendees stranded in Miami.

qPublic began to take off in Florida with Jefferson County being our very first client. It wasn’t long before we were providing service to a dozen Florida counties, all of which were using AS400s for their CAMA software. We launched Bibb County, Georgia soon after, having met their Chief Appraiser at the IAAO conference in Edmonton. We also created and maintained websites for the Property Appraiser Association of Florida (www.paaf.net) and for the Florida Association of Property Appraisers (www.fapa.net) in an effort to meet these folks and become “known”. We actually managed the website for the IAAO (www.iaao.org) for a period, July 2000-2002.

In November, 2001 we put our first maps online using Mapserver (3.3) software. As we added this feature to more and more county websites, I remember wondering why it was such a big deal to these folks, thinking that the data from the CAMA system was the most important thing for the public – I was obviously wrong.

With Georgia counties Bibb and Clayton under our belt, Bulloch County, Georgia came onboard in November 2003, opening a huge door as we created the website for the Georgia Association of Assessing Officials (www.gaao.org) and began attending their conferences and meetings.

Later in 2003, Jim Gear passed away leaving a huge hole to fill. It’s very sad that just as we were taking off we lost our founder, and my best friend. I moved from just building the websites’ front-ends to a Sales position, picking up a lot of the duties Jim had performed. I actually inherited his cell phone and still use that.

I’ve always thought that being a bit “different” was a great way to be noticed and remembered. To that end we have used swag that was either of very high quality, or just different.

Perseverance paid off; we moved into Colorado and more Florida counties. We were soon expanding across Georgia and into South Carolina and Kentucky. Our creation of the “Not a Dime” program allowed smaller counties with no available money in their budget to have a website that was subscription based. Our fees to the public were very affordable and the Assessor’s office still got the benefit of the website, helping their “door not swing and their phone not ring”.

Having reached a county count of approximately 350 clients in 15 states, qPublic was the largest provider of web-services to Assessor offices in the nation. Then in June 2015, qPublic was acquired by The Schneider Corporation; and currently we work with nearly 600 counties in 28 states. I am really looking forward to the future and where we will go from here.
Tagged history, qPublic