If you were asked to number a piece of paper from 1 to 10 and list 10 names of “innovators” in the field of code and regulatory enforcement, I think it would be quite a difficult task. While there are some very knowledgeable and entertaining instructors and teachers with great “war stories,” the same material and classes are offered at every code enforcement or building official conference across the country. It is a fact however that learning from an experienced trainer or facilitator is important for those of us who are new to the regulatory field, and for those who like to brush up on some of the basics; but as regulators, what does it take to create true innovators in our field?
To begin with, these new potential “innovators” need to exist in an environment where there is a value attached to their ideas and their approach to enforcement. Many public service environments are not conducive to creating innovators because they are filled with people that say, ‘We’ve always done it this way!’ An innovator is a person who visualizes how things could be done different (and better). A place with too many controls and leaders with self-serving agendas and large ego’s prevent innovators from emerging. Now if I were to ask you to list 10 cities or counties where innovation is stymied, I bet that could be done with little to no effort.
In local government, is there really a desire for innovation? Some would say the status quo is most comfortable for elected officials and tenured executive staff, but others would argue there is room for innovation; those are the people who have the potential to innovate our field. The naysayers are codependent on these people and are always waiting on another person to come up with an idea. Ironically, (and from personal experience) many local government managers and officials are efficient at making it uncomfortable for people that are willing to challenge conventional wisdom and test new and different kinds of ideas, and these places eventually suffer from the loss of that capability in an innovator (sounds like…insert your city/county/organization here!)
Are you ready to innovate? Can you take the time to develop a solution to a process or issue that can be implemented in your enforcement activities? In code, building and zoning compliance and enforcement there are huge opportunities for innovation. From a new technical solution to a possible new way to respond to resident requests, innovators must create a structure that systematically increases efficiency.
I am counting on the new generation of enforcers, inspectors and code officials to lead the way to innovation; are you ready?
About the author: Marcus Kellum, MMPA CCEA
Marcus Kellum has worked with local governments, private businesses and professional organizations across the country to train their regulatory, compliance and enforcement officers and inspectors. He spent nearly three decades in public service working with various cities and counties in Georgia, Colorado and the City of New York. He has held positions as code division manager, chief of enforcement, and department director. Marcus is a Certified Code Enforcement Administrator and holds a BS in criminal justice administration, and a master’s degree in management and public administration.