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Even in slow times, building inspector keeps fairly busy
Joe Hayes, 36, city of Oakwood building inspector and code enforcement officer, has been on the job for more than a year. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Meet your government

Every Monday, The Times takes a look at someone who keeps local government running smoothly.

OAKWOOD — A slumping economy has made things a little quieter in Joe Hayes’ office.

The city’s building inspector and code enforcement officer said he has gone from 10 or 15 inspections a day to two to three a day.

Still, with a 300-unit apartment complex under construction off Winder Highway near Robson Crossing Shopping Center, and stores opening in a strip shopping center next to Wal-Mart Supercenter off Mundy Mill Road, "that keeps us sort of busy."

"But you can tell a difference in the economy," Hayes said.

Making sure new buildings meet code isn’t all that fills the workweek for the Statham resident.

He reviews plans for all construction jobs and fields a variety of complaints from residents, ranging from conflicts with landlords to neighbors keeping junk cars or trash in their yards.

"We’ve been real lucky that most people usually comply (with city laws)," Hayes said. "We’ve never been to court with anybody since I’ve been here."

Hayes, 36, an Oconee County native who grew up in Jefferson, arrived in Oakwood in April 2007 from Statham, where he had worked as the city building inspector for four years. Previously, he worked as a building inspector for three years in Jackson County.

He came to Oakwood because he had heard favorable things about City Manager Stan Brown, whom he had worked with but didn’t know at the time in Jackson County.

His journey into government work began after he had worked at his father’s plumbing business for several years.

Hayes has earned International Code Council certificates in residential and commercial plumbing inspection and residential building inspection, and he has been studying for certification in residential and commercial mechanical inspection.

He always stands the chance of meeting up with less agreeable residents on the job, but Hayes hasn’t found that so far.

"The city seems to be laid back," he said. "... We just go out and try to stick by the book. If I think I’m going to have a problem, I take the (police) chief with me. ... We’ve had some upset people — you go onto somebody’s property and tell them to clean up, they don’t like it."

Hayes, who has been married for 15 years and has two children, ages 8 and 4, said he learned about conflict resolution while in Statham, where he served on the City Council for a year.

In that environment, "you learn politics quick," he said.

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