It’s not all water under the bridge for former Helix GM

You won’t find bottled water in Bob Friedgen’s refrigerator. No Fiji, Dasani, Evian or Crystal Geyser.

Nope, Friedgen likes his water straight from the tap. And he’s particularly enamored with the water stored 25 miles south of him at Lake Jennings in Lakeside, owned by Helix Water District.

There may be no bigger fan of Helix than 89-year-old Friedgen, who worked for the district for 44 years before retiring in 1998.

He left East County in 2004 and moved to Rancho Bernardo where he belongs to several social groups, including a wine group that meets once a month.

Asked if he’d rather drink water than wine, Friedgen doesn’t hesitate: “Yes — Helix water!”

Friedgen started his Helix career in 1955 as a hydraulic engineer, earning $110 a week when it was called the La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley Irrigation District and served 66,000 people.

He was appointed general manager in 1980 and when he retired 18 years later, he was earning $120,000 annually — and Helix had 250,000 customers.

When he speaks about Helix, he still uses “we” and “our” and says the district will always be a part of him.

“I’m sorry I don’t have the advantage of drinking our Helix water anymore, he said. “I always felt a real sincere honor to be working at Helix Water District.

“We have the best staff there. We’ve always had quality people, professional in every way and that’s such a pleasure.”

Friedgen keeps a bound book in his office that houses every typewritten, two-page in-house newsletters he wrote and produced for 14 of those 18 years as the head of the district.

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