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DOT engineer working the kind of job he envisioned
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Matt Needham is the Georgia Department of Transportation area engineer for the Gainesville-based district. - photo by Tom Reed

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Matt Needham, a Georgia Department of Transportation engineer overseeing work in Hall, Dawson and Forsyth counties, talks about his job satisfaction.
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Matt Needham is a triathlete and scuba diver, so being lowered 75 feet into a dark hole should be a cinch, right?

“It was pretty interesting,” said the 30-year-old Loganville native. “I wasn’t scared, but it was a little surreal being that far down in the hole.”

But otherwise, it was just another day on the job for Needham, the Georgia Department of Transportation engineer for Hall, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

Needham, who lives in Cumming, began that role in August, working out of an office on Gillsville Highway in East Hall.

The Loganville High School graduate knew fairly early on where his future might lie, and that it might contain a little adventure.

“I’ve always been interested in math and science, and I knew I wanted to work outside and not be cooped up inside,” Needham said.

He has long been fascinated by structures, “bridges and everything,” adding that he is “a see-how-it-works kind of guy.”

Add to that “hearing what people’s dads did (for a living), and I kind of got interested in (engineering),” Needham said.

He attended Reinhardt College in Waleska for two years, then transferred to Georgia Tech in Atlanta to complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

Two days after graduation, he went to work for the DOT.

He then worked for two years as an engineer trainee.

“It’s a neat program where (employees) ... learn a little about each of the (DOT) offices,” said Teri Pope, district spokeswoman for the DOT. “During that process, they decide where they want to work after the two years.”

Needham went to work in construction out of the Gwinnett office.

He became assistant area engineer, working to manage the Interstate 85/Ga. 316 makeover, the biggest project ever in District 1, which covers 21 Northeast Georgia counties, including Hall.

It was there Needham was lowered into the hole to make sure it had been dug to the right depth.

“He’s done some really cool things with the department,” Pope said.

These days, in his new job, Needham oversees 419 miles of state routes and interstates and 28 active projects costing a total of $173 million. Five projects totaling $7.7 million are being funded by federal stimulus money.

Seeing something built from the ground up, and knowing all the hard work that went into it, is what gives Needham satisfaction.

“There’s a real sense of pride in doing this type of work,” he said.
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