No Man is an Island

In 1624, John Donne wrote a poem entitled, “No Man is an Island.” No matter how sophisticated and advanced we believe that we have become in the last 400 years, this idea still holds true. The same thing applies to what we do every day as first preventers. We interact with so many others: from homeowners and citizens to elected officials, from contractors to government agencies, and from organizations like the Building Officials Association of Texas (BOAT) and the International Code Council (ICC).

What is to be gained from these interactions? Why can’t everyone just leave us alone and allow us to get our work done? Why must we be interrupted every minute of every day with questions and problems? Because, it’s worth it. There’s no other explanation for why we, as code officials, do what we do other than that we must feel that it is worth it.

Let’s admit it; we’ve all taken abuse from every side at one time or another, whether it be an upset contractor or an angry citizen. Nevertheless, we keep showing up at work day after day, because there is a job that needs to be done. Obviously, we believe in what we do or we wouldn’t tolerate this from anyone else in our lives. Code officials are necessary, and if we don’t do it, who will?

This is where the need for partnership enters. Every day, there is a need to work with someone else either inside your city or outside to get the job done. Maybe it’s your fire department, who should be a partner throughout the development process. Maybe it’s the parks department, who is building a new pool or park. Maybe it’s even the police department, who is having crime issues they can tie to a specific business and they are asking you to revoke a Certificate of Occupancy. These opportunities, to work alongside others, should be valued for the interesting learning that accompanies them and which ultimately makes us better at our own jobs.

One of the best opportunities to work with others comes through organizations like BOAT and ICC. Where else will you find a group of people who deal with the same exact issues that you do on a daily basis? The return on investment gained from getting involved is well worth the effort, and the network that one can build is invaluable. When a code official can pick up the phone or send an email out to others in the business, and expect immediate response, it makes the job that much easier. Take the opportunity to get involved and get to know other code officials well enough for those calls to be easy to make.

Clearly John Grisham never read Donne’s poem or at least never took it to heart. In so many of Grisham’s novels, an island is where the protagonist disappears to at the end of the book with a fortune. That may sound good for a while, until we realize we’re entirely on our own and talking to volleyballs like Tom Hanks. While we might dream of living alone no man is an island as we all depend on each other to subsist and thrive.


Brett King, CBO
Vice President, BOAT
Building Official, City of Carrolton

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