The difference between being a code official in a small city versus a large city is the duties assigned. I have worked in a one-person department, where I performed all duties required to run a building department including being the assistant to the zoning administrator, code enforcement officer, an asbestos abatement supervisor, backflow preventer tester, etc.
I next moved to a three-person department, where I did not have as much to do hands on since I had a permit tech and a combination inspector. I was not responsible for code enforcement duties. I did, however, perform more administrative duties and plan reviews, and when a staff member was out of the office, I had to take on duties. A few times I was a one-person department due to both staff members being out of the office.
Now, I work in a large department where my administrative duties occupy all my time. My personal experience in all aspects associated with a building department and code enforcement department has helped prepare me to be a good building department administrator and capable to better serve the department and its stakeholders.
Having come from the private sector as a building code consultant and building department expediter in New York City and working for architects and engineers as their project manager preparing contract documents to file with the City, I can see and appreciate the differences in being on both sides of the counter. Each side has its responsibilities and liabilities and, in my opinion, feels equally heavy. Since I have been on both sides of the counter, I can understand the struggles each team experiences and the decisions that are made from both sides. But I also know the loopholes (interpretations) both teams use to get things either passed through the system or delayed.
The one common thing both groups must deal with is customer service. The building department has a responsibility to its shareholders and citizens while the private sector has a responsibility to their customers. This aspect of the process is why I believe both sides need to work together. There will always be challenges arriving to a mutual agreement, but in the end, the customer/citizen needs to be the winner. Whether you come from a city of 1,000 or 1,000,000 people, the goals are the same: to have the customer/citizen live, work, learn, or play in a safe built environment.
Izzy Rivera, CBO
Director at Large, BOAT
Chief Building Official, City of Amarillo