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RE: Making a difference ??

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We are all passionate and most of us believe in our side of the opinion line. We can pick out the good and we can point out the bad – probably the most relevant point that hit me most in your comments is that when it works, the structure or those who designed it are anonymous, yet when it fails the world finds out (I am paraphrasing). When I first joined SEA in 1983 I believed that the companies who invested in their employees’ participation as volunteers were acting in the best interest and representing the needs of the membership. When I left in 2000 or 2001 I felt as though the needs of a few were guiding the direction of all others. At one point a disagreement on this issue arose between the chapters in California as to this very ideology. The one where those who volunteer lead won out over involving proper representation of the members and I left on principle that this was wrong. However, I did not simply walk away without voicing and writing my concerns to each board of directors in my chapter and at the state level. I never did receive the curtsey of a reply for any of the letters I wrote over the years to those decision makers on SEA of California.


Each state association is different and I admire the purity that Alabama appears to have in working for the welfare of the people and representation of their members. California saw these ideals at one time in the past, but in my opinion and that of others who had their say and spent their time volunteering, it is different today and the politics is a wall that none of us can get through.


I don’t want to make a blanket statement on all SEA Associations or those that have more than one chapter. Each is a entity of thinking professional members, many with opinions and ideas which should be welcomed as part of the volunteer process (some of us are too far from the major city to participate over a table and during business hours). What is debated on this list should be considered an indicator of the opinions of at least some of the professional community instead of a bitching session.


John, I am not arguing with your comments. This is not a black and white issue as there is a vast area of gray that blends good intentions with self-serving deeds. The hard part is differentiating these issues and deciding on our own which are true and which are not. In your case, I commend you and your company. It appears that in Alabama the importance of structural engineering exceeds the self-serving and this is what I would hope every state association represents. I only ask that each state association and those state chapters don’t exclude valuable opinion because it does not come from a volunteer or a member. The building code does not discriminate who it intends to serve and no professional association should do the same.


My apologies if I offended the well intentions of your firm as a blanket statement. I did not mean it in this vane and it may be that I have lived in California too long.


Happy Holidays to you and yours,


Dennis S. Wish, PE


-----Original Message-----
From: John C. Jones [mailto:john(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Friday, December 12, 2003 1:09 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: Making a difference ??


I don't have the love of debate that others here have so I'll make it short.  No one said that volunteering excuses shabby work.  I will say that when folks don't like the way I'm doing something for a civic group my attitude is not to get mad but rather that they are welcome to that high paying job.  These folks spend more out of pocket than most might think.  My boss has been on about a dozen ACI and ACEC committees at the national level and I'm 99% sure paid for all travel out of pocket.  This doesn't include lost billing time.  He went to all ACI National conventions, ACEC conventions and many others.  Starting in 2004 I'm going to at least one national event each year after an absence of several years.  I'll anticipate the argument that I'm paid to do that with the fact that my income is a % of what I bill and my insurance and retirement comes out of that total as well.  In effect, I'm AM paying to go.


Volunteering is sort of like good design.  How many times have we gotten butchered for the 1% that gets screwed up while no one notices the good stuff that was designed (no, this doesn't excuse the goof).  Good design tends to not be noticed because it's doing it's job.  Volunteering tends to be the same way.  We can all point to items in the code we don't like, but how many try to get involved and do something about it.  Our state SEA is heavily represented at the national level because we are blessed with folks that get involved.  The simplied wind procedure of the SBC and now IBC was written by an Alabama engineer.  It can be done.  I was at a SEA meeting last week.  A slide was shown listing 4 engineers who volunteer on an IBC committe related to structures.  They have code voting power.  2 were from Alabama.  One of those engineers has repeatedly talked about how voting code committees are always building officials, until now.  Those 4 engineers get a vote.  He's one of the votes.


Stan, I feel your pain.

A co-worker went to the NCSEA meeting in Denver.  Did you happen to meet a young lady from Alabama at that meeting?  Normally, I wouldn't ask but I understand that the NCSEA meetings are very small and most folks get to meet.


Anybody read Weingardt's(sp?) book on the importance of being a well rounded engineer and the importance of this topic?  Pretty good read, it came out a few years ago.


I guess I didn't make it too short afterall.  Sorry about that and have a good weekend.


I guess I'd better that I don't have any major beef with the code and my activities tend to be elsewhere as far as volunteering goes.

John C. Jones, PE
Barnett Associates
Pell City, AL
205-884-0099 (fax)