Helping Huntington have fun

Jim Engle has been with the city for 37 years, helping residents enjoy leisurely activities and times.

December 29, 2010|By Britney Barnes,
  • Jim Engle, the community services director for the city of Huntington Beach, is retiring after more than 30 years of service.
Jim Engle, the community services director for the city… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

When it's time to retire, it's time to retire. For Huntington Beach's Community Service Director Jim Engle, that time was last year.

The Fountain Valley resident did retire, but he never ended up leaving.

Instead, he stayed on part time to get the Community Services Department through its share of $3 million in budget cuts and to reorganize the department in a citywide overhaul.

The year turned out to be the most stressful of his career, but with his last day in sight, Engle said it was all worth it.

Engle, 61, finally retired just before Christmas after more than 37 years in the department. From center director in 1973, when he was fresh out of college and had recently moved to Huntington Beach, Engle climbed the ladder until he took the helm in 2003.

"I've been lucky," he said before Christmas. "I've been here 37 years. I've had seven different positions. So I've been blessed in that I've been allowed to move around, get different experiences and move up the ladder."


'Field of the future'

Engle grew up northwest of Bakersfield playing Little League and flag football. Still, there was no recreation department in small-town Shafter, his California Central Valley hometown. It wasn't until an orientation class at Bakersfield Community College that he even heard of recreation as a possible career.

During the orientation, he was told that "recreation was the field of the future," but he was already on a different path. Engle went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as an architectural engineering major until he realized it just wasn't for him.

It was then that the words from his community college orientation came back. Looking for a major that would produce job opportunities, Engle transferred to San Diego State as a recreation administration major. The idea of working at parks sounded fun, he said.

"I wanted a secure career," Engle said. "I wanted to make the community better in some small way."

After he graduated, Engle found out he wasn't the only one who had heard the spiel about the field of the future. Every job he applied for had at least 100 other applicants.

Engle gave himself a year to find a job in his field, but within three months, he applied for center director in Huntington Beach. Two months later, he started. As the center director, Engle oversaw the Edison Community Center and worked directly with the public.

He ran classes, set up programs for all ages, organized special events and put on camps.

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