Emory is fertile ground for explorer Julie Hale

When she was a child, Julie Hale now readily admits, she was the type of youngster who would pick up electrical wires off the ground and play with them. "I can look back on that and laugh now," said Hale, electrical/elevator inspector in the Operations and Maintenance Department of the Facilities Management Division.

Even at that early age, Hale had a strong mechanical interest. "When I was around 11, I built a motor for a science project," she said. "It had rubber bands and batteries and all kinds of things."

Charting Emory's utilities

That keen curiosity about what makes things work has served Hale well in her first year at Emory, where she has become intimately familiar with nearly every elevator mechanical room and electrical utility area on campus.

As the University's electrical inspector, Hale conducts building assessments and inspections. "I look for problems that maybe no one else has found," she said. "I get to explore every part of every building. Also, I can help anyone in the University who needs to add something to their operation that requires extra electrical capacity and they need a price on it, or if they're having a problem with their existing power and they need to find out why."

When Hale is wearing her elevator inspector hat, she is responsible for maintaining an inventory of the nearly 150 elevators at the University, including Emory and Crawford Long hospitals. "Emory has more elevators than anyone else in the state," Hale said. Consequently, Emory's contract for elevator maintenance with the Swiss firm Schindler also is the largest one in Georgia.

Since her arrival at Emory, Hale has compiled a book that gives the location of each elevator mechanical room on campus. "Some of the rooms are not easy to find, which can be a big problem when there's an emergency," Hale said. "Before, there was a very arbitrary and inconsistent way of identifying the elevators themselves." Hale remedied that problem by implementing a new, more consistent identification system.

An explorer's soul

Because Emory has more utilities and infrastructure than many small cities, Hale said, the campus has vast potential for someone who wants to discover new worlds every day. "I love exploring and I am very curious," said Hale, who has worked in the electrical industry for 20 years. "Sometimes I will trace out some of the electrical circuits on campus, and by the time I'm finished I almost feel like I know what the guys who ran the circuits were wearing when they did it, just because I've learned so much about the work they did."

Before coming to Emory, Hale had already made a career out of charting new territory. On Hale's first day on the job as an electrical inspector for the city of Atlanta in 1992, the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles sparked violent protests in downtown Atlanta and in the Atlanta University area. Because Hale happened not to listen to her radio that day, she was unaware the she was driving to inspection jobs within blocks of some of the demonstrations. It wasn't until later in the day, after she was radioed and ordered to return to her office, that she learned how close she had come to the violence.

Hale's tenure with the city of Atlanta followed a seven-year period of owning and operating her own electrical contracting business. "I really hadn't intended to start my own business," she said. "I had gotten my master's license with the state when I was a third- or fourth-year apprentice. I just started doing some of that work to bring in some extra cash. It evolved into a full-time business where I eventually had 30 clients."

Ironically, the older residential areas around Emory provided Hale with a great deal of her business. "I got into a lot of rewiring of these old mansions that had extremely old wiring systems that were really hard to rewire," she said. "It was dirty, nasty work that nobody else wanted to do, but I got really good at it."

Hale's connections to Emory actually go back even further than her rewiring work on nearby homes. Twelve years ago, when she was an apprentice with a local electrical contracting firm, she was sent to work with the maintenance electrician at Emory Hospital on the emergency electrical system.

One of the first women to join the Atlanta chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Hale has found at Emory an ideal environment to continue discovering new territory. "It's really a lot of fun to go around and meet people in the various departments," she said. "It's just so interesting to have a good reason to explore all of these buildings."

--Dan Treadaway

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