It’s early, but that’s okay. I don’t mind the quiet and I know this is the coolest it’s going to be all day. I like having this small time to myself before the Georgia heat and the pace of the work take their toll.
I arrive at Code Compliance HQ a little before 8 a.m. I’m dressed in my uniform of black slacks, gray polo, and heavy black boots — a must in my line of work. Walking through tall grass, abandoned lots, and who knows what for over eight hours a day, I’ve definitely come to appreciate them. A high ponytail brings a little relief to my neck in the humid, morning air, and once I tuck in my shirt, I feel ready to start the day. Affixing my badge to my hip, I run through an inspection of my truck, check my caseload for the day, and make my way toward Savannah’s Eastside.
For the last two years, I’ve worked as a Code Compliance Officer for the City of Savannah. People’s reactions to my work run the gamut of amusement to disinterest, but most often — it’s confusion. It’s always difficult to explain exactly what we do, but the gist is: We make people aware of the codes and ordinances that help Savannah stay safe and beautiful, and ultimately, we try to work with them to make sure those codes and ordinances are upheld.
Today, I have about ten assignments, or “activities,” in my caseload. It may not seem like much right now, but that number can, and most likely will, change throughout the day. As I scan, I mostly see open cases — violations I’ve already responded to that just need a follow up. I like those. I don’t know what it is, but the work fascinates me.
First up is a derelict vehicle case I’m getting to know quite well. As I approach, I see the car hasn’t been moved since I last tagged it, and judging by the still flat tire, it appears no attempts have been made to get it into working condition.
As I work — taking photos, checking my notes — I notice my previous citation has been removed, and truthfully, I’m a bit dismayed. I wish they would’ve called me. In Code, we leave our number at the bottom of every notice, in hopes someone will reach out. The thing is — I want to help. I don’t mind working things out, extending deadlines, or hearing the whole story. When people ignore the citation — what can I do? Once it’s in the system, that’s where it stays until compliance has been achieved. I print another notice and stick the two forms: one gold, one white, back up on the car. I make sure to circle my number this time. Just in case.
Driving through the historic district, I can’t help but smile a little at the trees. I see them every day, but never get bored with the view. I’m from Upstate New York, and while I do miss it sometimes, I’m so glad my son gets to grow up here. I love Savannah. The trees, the people, all the colors — there’s nothing like this place. My husband and I first moved here for the military, and I’ve never regretted it. Even though I wasn’t born here, it still feels like I belong here. Keeping Savannah beautiful is more than just my job — it’s my privilege.
Before becoming a Code Compliance officer, I worked in security. I knew within the first year that Code Compliance was the right path for me. It’s not for everyone and I would never call the job “easy,” but it’s rewarding in its own way. The challenges of the job: deescalating high emotions and figuring out solutions for Savannah’s residents keep the job interesting. I love the people I work with. I’ve only been in this role for two years, so there are way more knowledgeable officers than me on the roster. What I like, is that I can call any one of them up and they’ll gladly offer the support I need to do my job. I like to think I know my stuff, but I know I don’t have all the answers.
As I pull into the yard of my next case, I can see the residents watching me, wondering what I’m up to. I give them a friendly wave and always a smile — I want them to know I don’t mean any harm — just here to do my job. What I see is encouraging. I flash them a thumbs up to let them know I notice the freshly mowed grass, cleared lane, and now tidy roof. With every click of my camera and affirmative nod of my head, I can feel them relax a little and I’m encouraged by that as well. I’m not here to hassle anybody and I want us all to feel safe.
Honestly, that’s what I like most about this job. It’s all about people. When I pull up to a case and the lawn is overgrown and I see violations piling up, the first thing I want to know is: is everything okay? At the end of the day, I love helping people make their homes and neighborhoods a better place to live. My job is about keeping Savannah and her citizens safe and bettering their quality of life. I can go home to my family every day and feel good about that.