Building official Gaddis Farmer remembered
Gaddis Farmer, CBO, retired building official for the city of Simi Valley, Calif., wanted the work that he has done to speak for him after he was gone. As Farmer was remembered by more than a hundred of his colleagues, friends and family for being a wonderful professional, community service leader, and husband and father during a memorial service on Jan. 9, 2019, at the Carson City Community Center in California, it is apparent that he inspired many people during his life through his example of professional leadership, sacrifice and community service.
Gaddis Farmer was born Aug. 28, 1943, in Leland Miss. The sixth child out of a total of seven children, Farmer and his family moved to Los Angeles, Calif., when he was just six months old. Throughout his youth into adulthood, he excelled as a scholar, athlete and student leader. He was a graduation speaker at Carver Elementary School, an academic scholar at Willowbrook Middle School, and a varsity football player, academic scholar and student body vice president during his time at Centennial High School. Immediately after graduating, Farmer attended Cal State University San Jose; however, due to financial constraints, he returned to Los Angeles after completing one year of college but still had the tenacity to complete his degree and decided to become a part-time college student and work with the Los Angeles County Engineering Group in order to earn a college degree.
Farmer was drafted into the United States Army in 1964. With his new wife, Rosemary, he was stationed at Fort Hood Army Base in Waco, Texas. He later went to Munich, Germany, and worked with the Warhead Detachment. Because of his educational background and high test score, he was invited to attend officer’s candidate school, which he declined because of the long four-year commitment. During his two years he was promoted to Sargent because of exceptional leadership skills.
Upon his return home after the military, Farmer was determined to finish college. He continued to work and provide for his family while he attended college part time. He graduated from Compton Community College with an associate’s degree in engineering and then earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in engineering from California State University Los Angeles just four years later.
Farmer began his career with the Los Angeles County Engineering Group and served in several progressive roles as an engineering aide in survey mapping for the Flood Control Department, then serving as a hydrographer, building inspector and senior building inspector. As a senior inspector, he took on a major leadership role running the building department for the city of Lawndale, Calif., where his leadership skills were recognized by the city manager and Farmer was encouraged to apply for an open position to run the entire building department for the city of Simi Valley as the building official. After 25 years of service to Los Angeles County, he relocated to Simi Valley to begin a new phase of his professional and personal life.
As the new building official for Simi Valley, Farmer became a certified building official with the California Building Officials. He was then asked to be on the Education Committee for the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), which is a founding organization of the International Code Council. After becoming chairman of the Education Committee, he served on the ICBO board of directors, the first African-American to hold the position.
“When the idea of a merger came through, Gaddis was one of the strong supporters of it right from the start,” explained Chuck Ramani P.E., CBO, chairman of Built Environment Services and Technologies LLC and former president of the International Accreditation Service. “His was a voice of encouragement.”
After 15 years of service, Farmer retired from the city of Simi Valley in December of 2003. Just two months prior to his retirement, a fire that burned over 100 acres in Simi Valley only destroyed four structures, in due part to his work on the city’s building department to enforce strict codes for fire safety. Farmer was later interviewed by CNN and Simi Valley was considered to be a model for other cities in fire zone areas.
“After the Northridge earthquake, his city had the lowest level of damage,” said Ramani. “Not all of that was due to Gaddis, of course, but the fact that he had been there for a few years made a difference. Not only did he bring harmony, but the harmonious team that emerged acted cohesively and they were able to take advantage of the fact that the city had done good work prior to the earthquake.”
Farmer enjoyed a wonderful retired life as a consultant and traveled around the world with his family during his lifetime. He traveled extensively across the United States as well as Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands. His travels overseas included visiting the countries of Japan, China, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Monaco, and the Greek Isle of Mykonos.
Farmer passed away on Dec. 4, 2018, and is remembered by his wife, Rosemary; daughters, Stephanie and Tracey; brother Charles Farmer (Esther); sister Gwendolyn Hill; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends and colleagues.
“At the memorial service, I ended with these words: ‘My brothers and sisters, I leave you with a charge. Your community was able to produce a Gaddis, and now your job is to produce many clones of him because you got the formula right,” said Ramani on Farmer’s legacy. “Gaddis’ greatest strength was on the human side of the equation, which is so very vital in code enforcement. On the human side he was superb and he was the right man at the right time.”
“We have all lost a good friend and mentor… he inspired a lot of people to step up to the plate and take on leadership responsibilities,” said International Code Council Board Director Stuart Tom, P.E., CBO, FIAE. “All of us that knew Gaddis have also lost somebody who was a true friend, a real gentleman and somebody who helped us to become the people and leaders we are today.”