Introducing Cliff Whitfield

The Academy is excited to have Clifford Whitfield as an adjunct instructor. His firm, Fire Design, Inc., has provided fire sprinkler system designs for fire sprinkler contractors for the past 15 years. A native of Panama City, Florida, native, Cliff has been involved in the construction industry for over 45 years.  Inside the Academy corresponded with Cliff recently to discuss his work and role with the Academy.

 ITA: How did you get involved in the field?

CRW: In 1985 I was an estimator/project manager for a small ‘mom & pop’ commercial plumbing contractor in a small town in the panhandle of Florida (Marianna).  We did a lot of underground fire main installation for a local sprinkler company in those days.  One of their salesmen decided to move on to a bigger company and I applied for the position.  I figured – “plumbing -- fire sprinklers, can’t be too different – they both have water”.  I soon found out, that is about the only thing they have in common!!  Since that time, I’ve been an estimator, branch manager, and VP of several larger firms in the Southeast and in Colorado, before starting Fire Design. 

ITA: How did you get involved with the Academy?

CRW: Since early in my company’s existence, I’ve been active in AFSA as a design member, attending as many of their national conventions as possible.  In addition to that, I’ve been using the AutoSprink software for over 13 years and for many of those years, I’ve been one of their training instructors.  A close friend and VP of AutoSprink, Terry Chapin, who has since passed away, introduced me to Cecil Bilbo at one of the AFSA conventions many years ago.  Cecil contacted me (along with several others) this year and asked if I would be interested in helping ‘fill in’ during times when he was out, due to his crazy schedule. 

 ITA: What are you most excited about your position here at the Academy?

CRW: Passing on some of what I’ve learned to the younger generation of sprinkler designers and future leaders in our industry.  I can say without hesitation that after 32 years in the fire sprinkler business, I still come to work with a passion to provide an excellent product for my clients and can’t think of one day during that time when I’ve regretted being involved in this industry.  I love helping folks learn how to do things the right way and hopefully to do it with integrity.

ITA: What do you see as your greatest challenge in your position thus far?

CRW: Having the time to help more than I do.  Trying to maintain my design schedule while trying to fit in the time for class is a major challenge.  I’d love to be there with the guys (and gals) every day, even when I’m not teaching, but my schedule just doesn’t allow it.

ITA: Any additional insights you want to add.

CRW: I love my profession and I’m grateful for how it allows me to provide for my family.  But at the end of the day, we need to remember that it’s just a job and the most important thing in life is our family and friends and our relationship with our Creator. If we work hard at keeping these at the center of our life, our vocation will be so much more enjoyable.