County Building Inspector Wins State Honor
from Smithfield Herald, August 18, 2006
by Suzette Rodriguez, Staff Reporter
Smithfield -- R.B. Jones had an inkling three weeks ago something was up when a co-worker offered congratulations, then hurried off red-faced when Jones asked what for.
Still, it was a surprise last Tuesday night when the NC Building Inspectors Association tapped Jones as its "Building Inspector of the Year". He received an engraved plaque during the banquet, which was part of the annual convention held in Asheville at the Crown Resort Plaza. About 400 people were in the audience.
Jones, 64, lives near Zebulon in the edge of Franklin County. He came to work at the Johnston County Inspections Office back in December of 1992. Since 1973, he had been in the construction business, first with his father and then later with a partner, Dallas Falk.
"My goal was to be a good field inspector," he said Friday. "I've done my best to do it."
During his first six years on the job, Jones took courses and sat for 14 state exams to earn level 3 certifications, which are the highest, in all five trades: building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and fire. (With his knowledge of construction, he was able to place out of the level 1 building-inspections exam.)
Jones, who was hired by former director C. P. Thompson, started out mostly inspecting houses. But over the years, he has been promoted to supervisory roles and has trained new inspectors in the residential, commercial and fire areas.
He is now a fire-inspections supervisor, but is mostly assigned to inspect large commercial projects. He spends much of his time at Novo Nordisk, which is finishing a major addition to its plant on Powhatan Road.
Dean Barbour, who is the interim director at the inspections office, said Jones draws on knowledge from an in-depth background in building. He's assigned to the bigger projects because he understands the technical jargon spoken by engineers, he said. "He understands them and they seem to listen and respect him as well," Barbour said.
Jones is a self-starter who needs no directions, Barbour said. He's patient and a good teacher, he added. The department has 21 building inspectors who are trained in all five trades.
Jones, who is thinking of retiring next July, hadn't planned to go to the convention. But Barbour urged him to go to the meeting of the Council of Code Officials -- a group of inspectors certified in all five trades. The group meets once every four years at the convention.
His wife, Alice, who was privy to the secret, agreed to go.
At the banquet that night, the Joneses' daughter and son-in-law, Betsy and Marko Veil of Greenville, SC, slipped in to see him get the award. The Joneses have two other grown children, Dan Jones and Bonnie Fuller.
Back in Smithfield, Jones' coworkers plastered the news on a display area in a waiting area of the office. "It's quite an honor," Barbour added. "I don't know how many hundreds of building inspectors there are in the state."
A former co-worker, Dennis Maidon, nominated Jones for the award while co-workers, including Mike Stratton and Amy Clifton, wrote letters of support. Jim Robinson, a building inspector in Wake County, also wrote a letter. Maidon also works with Wake County inspections.
"I like the people I work with," Jones said Friday while juggling phone calls and pages. "I enjoy communicating with architects and engineers. I like solving problems. I like enforcing the codes because they are designed for the life safety of the general public."