Training, professionalism key to Oregon Permit Tech’s Association Chapter Merit Award
Every building department, large or small, knows that permit technicians most often are the first faces the customers see. First impressions are key, then, and the Oregon Permit Technicians Association (OPTA) strives to make sure its members are trained so that the permitting process is as professional and seamless as possible.
“We can save plans reviewers a lot of time by looking at documents and seeing if they are sufficiently complete to send through,” said Tiffany Bonin, president of the Oregon Permit Techs Association, and senior permit tech for Washington County. “I have plans examiner training and our chapter wants to make sure permit techs have this and other training and certifications to help our customers.” Certifications are important, she added, because certified techs are also able to do simple plan review such as decks, carports, patio covers, garage conversions, window, door, and bathroom remodels, pole or manufactured structures, and solar systems. “This can really make a huge difference in a building department.”
By devoting themselves to this mission — through myriad training and certification opportunities — the Oregon Permit Techs Association earned the International Code Council’s Chapter Merit Award for 2020. The award recognizes chapters that distinguish themselves through activities demonstrating ICC’s goals and objectives. A look at OPTA’s mission statement aligns well with the Code Council’s goals and objectives:
“Our objective is to develop a higher standard of professionalism in education, training and unity among jurisdictions.”
And they seek to do this by developing and advancing professional abilities; uniting the members in the pursuit of excellent customer service; securing a closer relationship among permit technicians, pursuing higher professional and ethical standards; providing a forum for ideas and information; and promoting continuing education, training and state-wide uniformity.
Bonin often credits her “amazing board” for their involvement in making those objectives happen. They attended local, regional and state meetings, she said, and get great support from those organizations. That includes membership in PermitTechNation, a nationwide permit tech group, and presentations to groups such as Habitat for Humanity. “I’ve attended the Code Council’s annual business meetings and I’ve heard from other permit techs that they don’t always have the same level of support we get here in Oregon. So, we feel very fortunate.”
OPTA was formed in 2004 with education and training being a strong focus. Bonnie Lanz, retiring this year from the city of Portland, was among the organizers. She said all the training at the time was on customer service. Believing that permit techs needed more technical training, she got with other permit techs and the Code Council to help form the new chapter, which now has an award bearing her name that honors the OPTA Permit Tech of the Year.
Quarterly member meetings now are done by Zoom due to the pandemic restrictions, as are a wealth of training webinars now offered when their conferences were canceled. “We offer them for free because we know a lot of our jurisdictions are hurting due to the pandemic,” she said.
Much of the chapter work done by the board members — Vice President Michele Linbarger, NW Code Professionals; Secretary Serena Locke, Jackson County; Treasurer Deeanne McGough, Jackson County; members at large Vevie McPherren, city of Florence and Regan Trapp, city of Ashland; and Past President Brooke Cooper, city of Hillsboro — is done while homeschooling their children during the pandemic, Bonin said.
Board members also have gone into the local area schools and put on events during past Building Safety Months. To draw in the casual observer to the code world, they once set up a “Dog on the Job” campaign, posting of pictures of code officials and their best doggy friends at work.
But training, and making sure members have what they need to do their jobs or advance, is their real focus. That includes classes for beginners at the counter, as well as the more advanced techs. And she loves doing it. Bonin notes, “I have fallen in love with teaching and am enjoying teaching the Permit Technician Certification Classes and helping other permit techs with getting their certification.”