By: Lizzie Hudson, Assessment Center Program Manager
As the Code Council celebrates Building Safety Month, we recognize the sometimes unsung work of code professionals in our neighborhoods: Code Enforcement Officers. From blighted yards and unsafe houses to dangerous human activity, Property Maintenance Housing Inspectors confront local challenges every day in the name of public safety. Zoning Inspectors enforce zoning ordinances including development, repair, modifications, and occupancy uses, among many responsibilities, of local structures and land.
This month, we salute these invaluable professionals.
Kecia Lara has traveled great lengths to reach her current destination, both in physical miles and more importantly, through years of hard work, diligence, and determination to reach her goal. As the new Code Supervisor with the City of Austin, TX, Kecia is responsible for the daily operations of her division, which include the selection, training, evaluation, and counseling of her staff. She evaluates field investigation reports and approves cases submitted for legal enforcement and adjudication, as well as deep involvement with the community pertaining to zoning, building, and property maintenance concerns.
Kecia described the trials and triumphs of her career path, which is paved with her work in achieving Code Council certifications.
“In 2005, I started work as a permit clerk for Richland County in Columbia, South Carolina. In 2006, I decided to complete my bachelor’s degree. After a couple of years of listening to inspectors and the deputy building official answer questions at the front counter, I became interested in becoming a Residential Building Inspector, and began studying the International Residential Code on my own time. I also enrolled in graduate school, earning my MBA.”
After she passed the Residential Building Inspector exam, she met with her building official, Donny Phipps, currently serving on the ICC Board of Directors. When she informed him of her desire to become an inspector, he encouraged her to apply when the next position opened. Sure enough, Kecia obtained the Residential Building Inspector position. “I feel my career path took off from this point.”
While training in the field, she obtained the Residential Plumbing, Mechanical, and Electrical Inspector certifications. Additionally, she attained her Permit Technician, Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector, Zoning Inspector, and Commercial Building certifications. After performing residential inspections for a couple of years, she was promoted to the position of Housing Official/Manager of Property Maintenance, which she describes as “work that involves everything from overgrown lots to encounters with dangerous and illegal activities.”
Despite the arduous work and years of education and training required towards her goals, Kecia is passionate about her decision.
When we asked her why people should care about this line of work, her reply was as steadfast as her professional journey. “[C]ode enforcement is responsible for obtaining code compliance. We are here to protect the community from potential life safety conditions. No one wants to live in a blighted community. Removing the blight and requiring code compliance aids in community safety, cleaner neighborhoods, attraction of new development, and civic pride.”
Kecia inspires us through her power of determination, and she demonstrates how the power of Code Council certifications opens many doors, wherever one’s journey leads.
Kecia has served on the ICC Property Maintenance and Housing/Zoning Exam Development Committee for five years and is a member of the American Association of Code Enforcement (AACE). She also loves another kind of journey: vacationing on cruise ships. When she retires, she imagines herself as a professional cruiser.