My, how time flies. Just 10 years ago, then-Texas Gov. George Bush announced he would seek his party's nomination for president, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France and the U.S. Census Bureau was preparing for the 2000 decennial census.Now, it's that time again.
This week, a detachment of about 15 "listers" is being set loose on the streets of La Plata County to verify addresses ahead of the 2010 census, which will be delivered to residents next year in April.
There's not much new under the sun when it comes to counting people, but technology has added a few new wrinkles. Unlike in 2000, the listers will carry GPS-enabled handheld computers that will automatically transmit mapping information back to an office in Colorado Springs.
"The listers will be able to be much more accurate," said Karen Willis, who is located in Colorado Springs and oversees the La Plata County listing operation.
Listers are temporary employees hired for $10 to $15 an hour to catalogue every residence in the county during the next couple of months.
"We want to make people as aware as possible that they're going to be out there," said Deborah Cameron, a Census spokeswoman.
The workers will wear a badge, carry a Census 2010 black bag and have a sign in their personal vehicle.
They will not, Cameron stressed, collect any personal information, such as name, birth date or Social Security number.
"If you see somebody who asks for that, that's not a Census person," she said.
Willis said the Census Bureau likes to hire locals for the task.
"Most listers will live in their communities, so they are familiar with where people live and how people live, she said.
The actual census form will be mailed out about this time next year. Unlike the last census, there will be no long form, only a single page with 10 questions. Next year, more local workers will be hired to conduct follow-up calls and visit people whose forms weren't returned.
By law, the bureau cannot share the personal data collected with any agency, even within the federal government.
"We keep every bit of information that we collect absolutely sacred and private," Cameron said.
The U.S. Constitution calls for a census every decade to be used for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. The first one was completed in 1790.
These days, the data is used to redraw state legislative and congressional districts, determine funding for government programs and plan for schools, roads and other public facilities.
In 2000, La Plata County had a population of 43,941. By 2007, that was already estimated to have climbed to 49,555, an increase of nearly 13 percent.
According to the Census Bureau, Colorado was the third-fastest-growing state in the country from 1999-2000, followed by Nevada and Arizona, which now are among those hardest hit by the housing crisis.
To learn more about the census, including jobs, visit http://2010.census.gov.