ERWIN — It won’t be too long before Norm Heil makes a full-time return to familiar territory.
In the latter part of April, Heil is set to be officially transferred from the Warm Springs Fish Health Center in Warm Springs, Ga., where Heil has served as project manager, to take over as the new full-time manager of the Erwin National Fish Hatchery. Previous hatchery manager John Robinette retired in December.
“I always wanted to be the manager here, and now I’ve been given the opportunity to come back as manager,” Heil said. “My wife and I, we enjoyed it when we were here. We had young sons at the time, and they enjoyed it so we like the area. We’re glad to come back and be part of the community here.”
Heil, a native of Augusta, Ga., has more than 30 years of experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Heil said he primarily lived in South Carolina in his early years. Heil’s father, who worked with the Army, eventually transferred to El Paso, Texas, where Heil lived throughout his high school years.
Heil’s father was later transferred back east to Hampton Roads, Va. Heil attended college in Virginia at Old Dominion University, where he earned his degree in biology.
In 1978, Heil began his career with the Fish and Wildlife service, beginning at a hatchery in Walhalla, S.C. After three years there, he went on to work at a hatchery in Pittsford, Vt.
After several years working in Vermont, Heil began a three-year stint at the Erwin National Fish Hatchery, where he worked from 1984 to 1986. After that, Heil went to work in Tupelo, Miss., until the mid-1990s, when he transferred to Warm Springs to begin working in the fish health arena. Heil said his work with the center in Warm Springs required regular visits to the Erwin National Fish Hatchery.
“Erwin requires a fish health inspection twice a year, so I was familiar with the activities that go on up here, and I’m usually up here twice a year to do a fish health inspection where we screen the fish for various diseases,” Heil said. “So I do that twice a year here, and we do that once a year for the other hatcheries in the region as part of our fish health program.”
Since January, Heil has traveled back and forth between Warm Springs and Erwin, and he said he will still have a presence in the fish health arena once he begins full-time duties in Erwin. Once here, Heil said he intends to maintain the hatchery’s “status quo,” producing eggs for other hatcheries throughout the country. He also said the hatchery will continue its involvement in public outreach activities, such as the Wounded Warriors and Healing Waters programs, and educational programs and fishing events in the community.
“I’m excited about getting here in mid-April and going from there, continuing on with the production product that we provide here in Erwin for the community and the southeast region,” Heil said.