You never know WHO you could be sitting beside in that next planning meeting or conference… THE ENGINEER: FRANCIS E. (ED) FIEGLE II, P.E. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Program Manager II, Safe Dams Program - Retired 2010 Engineering is in Ed Fiegle’s blood; his grandfather was the first Electrical Engineering Co-op student to graduate from Georgia Tech and Fiegle, himself, followed in his footsteps – participating in the Co-op program and graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1973. “I can remember my grandmother telling me as a child that I was going to be an engineer. At the time, I thought that meant I was going to get to drive a train,” jokes Fiegle. Aft er graduation, he put his engineering degree to use, first working for John A. Todd Company, DeKalb County and later becoming the first County Engineer for Rockdale County. Fiegle finally landed at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division in 1979, where he worked with the Georgia Safe Dams Program for over 30 years. Fiegle has served two terms as President of the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers (GSPE), President of the Association of State Dam Officials and on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Engineering Alliance. He has been married to his wife, Evelyn, for 30 years and resides in north Heard County, Ga. THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS: “I’ve always had a beard, but I kept it close-cropped for work; when I retired, I let it grow longer and that first Christmas, a family member mentioned the Santa School in Michigan. I had played Santa once before and had enjoyed it, so I applied and was accepted. “Walking into a room full of experienced Santas that first day – man, talk about intimidating! I didn’t even own a red shirt because I went to Georgia Tech,” says Fiegle. “Part of our classwork was to go to Toys ‘R Us and research the latest ‘hot’ toy item that year. While I was there, two children stopped me to ask if I was Santa and that sealed the deal.” The C.W. Howard Santa School in Midland, Michigan, is the longest continuously running Santa School in the world, going on its 79th year. Classes are held every October and approximately 130 Santas attend annually. “There’s truly an art to being Santa and doing it well… the school teaches you how to present yourself,” states Fiegle. HOW DOES YOUR ALTER EGO IMPACT YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE? Every season, Fiegle, with his wife ‘Elf Evie,’ book events ranging from school visits to parades. He continues to attend the C.W. Howard Santa School annually to prepare for the upcoming holiday rush, but says that being Santa is basically a full-time job. “I’ll see kids in stores in the middle of summer and they’ll ask if I’m Santa and I’ll say, ‘I guess my disguise didn’t work today!’” He notes that there’s nothing like walking into a room full of small kids and having all of them run up to hug you at the same time. “It’s so far from the experience I had as an engineer; doing this is an absolute hoot. The saying is, Santa is always watching, but really, the kids are always watching Santa. The image I project in public, wearing the Red Suit or not, is so important.” ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER ENGINEERS ABOUT STRIKING A BALANCE? “Pay attention to your family. There are events that happen once in a lifetime – sometimes they occur without expectation or warning – and it’s so important to take part in those events. Having this experience - being Santa - has helped re-adjust my thinking.” “With all the electronic toys on the market that require skilled electrical engineers to create them, I tell the kids that I send my elves to Georgia Tech. The parents who cheer for other schools just go crazy.”
Published by American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia. View All Articles.
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