Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year Award: Sam Palmer
Sam Palmer recognized for his professional abilities contributions to advance the code enforcement profession and the Code Council‘s mission
Each year, the International Code Council recognizes peers and colleagues who are a reflection of what the association stands for: dedication to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. The Code Council honored several outstanding individuals and organizations for their accomplishments and contributions to building safety and resiliency in their communities during the 2022 Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year Award is awarded to an individual whose contributions advance the code enforcement profession and the Code Council’s mission. The individual must demonstrate professional abilities that are an example for all members of the code enforcement profession and advance the cause of safety in the built environment. The award is presented in honor of the founders of the three model code organizations: Albert H. Baum, M.L. Clement and Phil Roberts.
This year’s Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year Award was presented to Samuel D. Palmer, P.E., CBO, CFM, deputy executive officer for the Nevada State Contractors Board in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Louisville, Kentucky.
For Sam Palmer, success is all about helping people be the best they can be — both as individuals and as a team. It’s a philosophy that Palmer has cultivated during his 35-plus-year career as a senior executive and leader in both the public and private sectors.
He is widely known in the profession for his leadership, professionalism, mentorship and dedication as a code professional. He serves as a member of the International Accreditation Service (IAS) Board of Directors, chairs the Code Council’s Major Jurisdiction Committee, and serves as the recent, past president of ICC Region 1 representing the states of California, Hawaii and Nevada. Palmer also works with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and both the West and Northwest Technical Career High School Academies to advance their technical training program, where he mentors future and aspiring code professionals, contractors and engineers.
Under Palmer’s leadership, IAS — a member of the Code Council’s family of solutions and one of the leading accreditation bodies in the world — established the industry’s criteria for the accreditation of special inspection agencies through the publication of the AC-291 standard. As the past chair of ICC Region I, he has hosted multiple, all-chapter meetings with guest speakers to build rapport within the region as well as technical acumen. He hosted international representatives for the Major Jurisdiction Committee at last year’s ICC Annual Business Meeting and has given numerous presentations at previous annual conferences, educational programs, ICC Learn Live events and other IAS functions. Those are just a few examples of the pivotal role Palmer has played in furthering the Code Council’s mission.
Building Codes Are a Blueprint for Safety
Whether he’s talking with veteran building safety professionals or students entering the trades, Palmer stresses the vital role that code professionals play in keeping building safety codes current with changing knowledge, experience, and technology. “Building codes are a minimum standard, and they evolve to reflect hard-won experience,” Palmer explained.
Palmer recounted how, the morning after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, last June, local elected officials began calling to inquire about whether condominiums in Las Vegas faced similar risks and, if so, what steps could be taken to mitigate them. “In my capacity as chair of the ICC Major Jurisdiction Committee, I reached out to committee members in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Florida, Texas, Seattle, Portland, Oklahoma City, Denver and elsewhere to get their input,” Palmer recalled. “We asked, ‘What actions are you taking to address these issues? What do you see coming down the pike? What do we need to be aware of?’ And within a few days, we had very good input from across the country that code officials can use to improve their codes.”
“It might take three or more years for some of those changes to make it into the I-Codes, but in the meantime, they can be amended into local codes as a way to start applying the hard-won experience from that tragedy right away. That’s a good example of how we learn from tragedies and mistakes to keep improving the codes as best we can.”
Why Accreditation Matters
Having served IAS for many years as a member and chair of its Accreditation Committee and now as a member of its board of directors, it’s no surprise that Palmer is a strong advocate of accreditation for the building safety industry. Founded in 1975, IAS offers internationally recognized accreditations in more than 20 categories, including building departments, third-party service providers, field evaluation bodies, metal building manufacturers and assemblers, and testing laboratories.
“Accreditation is a great way to validate what you’re doing,” Palmer said. “Accreditation is a baseline that enables you to ensure you’re taking care of your customers.”
Raj Nathan, president of IAS and Chuck Ramani, P.E., CBO, founder and past president of IAS, recalled how they worked with Palmer over a decade ago when Nevada was selected to inaugurate an international program for the accreditation of building and fire prevention departments. “Mr. Palmer and his dedicated team of building safety professionals ensured early accreditation of the department to the international standards by IAS and proved by repetitive third-party evaluation to meet their established service goals,” Ramani and Nathan wrote. The experience is typical of Palmer’s dedication to raising professional standards.
“Accreditation is a critical step in process improvement,” Palmer explained. “You want to get better as an individual. You want your firm to get better. You want your industry to get better. Accreditation is a great way to validate those efforts at improvement.”
“I fully believe that by requiring you to put in writing what your operations are and how you operate, accreditation ensures that you walk the walk, not talk the talk,” said Palmer, who has been conducting and evaluating accreditations since the early 1990s. “It’s how your customers can be assured they’ll get what they pay for.”
Mentoring Pays it Forward
Accreditation is not the only path to professional development, Palmer believes. “Sam’s most meaningful accomplishment comes in his commitment to mentoring and developing young professionals in the engineering community,” wrote IAS Board Chair Rocco Davis. “He has been a mentor and ally for both high school and college students studying to enter the field, and continuously contributes to the advancement of the code profession.”
As Palmer sees it, mentoring rewards not only the mentee but also the mentor — and the profession as a whole. “Through the years I’ve mentored many dozens of students, in particular students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering,” Palmer said. “I try to work with one or two students each semester through their mentorship program. I get a lot of joy from helping the next generation.”
For Palmer, the key issue is the transfer of knowledge and experience. “We have to get them ready to move into this fast-paced, technologically complex world,” he said. “It’s one thing to go to school and get book knowledge, but you need practical experience too. It helps to have a mentor to bounce ideas off of and help you think your way through the decision-making process. In my code career, I was lucky to have Ron Lynn as one of my best and most critical mentors.”
In addition to practical advice, mentors can also provide students with the encouragement and emotional support they need when they’re feeling overwhelmed by academic pressure, Palmer noted. “There’s also a selfish motive at work here,” Palmer added with a laugh. “I want to have the next generation ready to go because I want to retire someday!”
It means a lot to Palmer, and to his wonderful family, that he was nominated for the Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year Award by his peers — many of whom he considers mentors of his own. “I am humbled to be selected,” he said. “It is the culmination of my career.”
Whether you’re a seasoned professional seeking accreditation to add to your suite of skills or a new apprentice just getting started in building safety, Palmer offers the same advice for staying at the top of your game. “At the end of the day, you need to focus on keeping it simple,” he said. “Break complexities into manageable portions. If you take each big job day by day, week by week, you’ll work your way through.”
Palmer also stresses the importance of always taking an interest in what you’re doing, no matter how seemingly unimportant it is, because it will affect the overall big picture. “You can’t get frustrated up front and give up,” he said. “Take the time to work things out and stick with it. Show up early and stay late. And in the end, you’ll succeed.”
Sam Palmer is a respected leader and advocate and the Code Council is grateful for his service to the building and code development community and his support and dedication to the association and its mission. His service personifies the spirit of the Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year Award as a leader who demonstrates professional abilities that are an example for all members of the code enforcement profession and advance the cause of safety in the built environment.
The International Code Council congratulates Sam Palmer as its 2022 Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year.
View past recipients of the Gerald H. Jones Code Official of the Year Award.