Who takes a job where public abuse is most likely and still enjoys the work? We nominate James Thomas.
A Manatee County code enforcement officer, he has the unpleasant task of telling residents that they are violating the rules about outdoor storage, trash and other blight.
Thomas, one of a dozen county code enforcement officers, was the centerpiece of a job profile this week by the Herald's Manatee County government reporter, Claire Aronson.
Nineteen years as a code enforcement officer with the city of Bradenton and then Manatee County, Thomas' first encounter with people in the profession did not go well. An officer cited his grandmother, but he did learn code enforcement is essential. That same officer taught Thomas the difficult job.
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But here's the deal: The county has a fairly new policy, one that encourages compliance rather than issuing citations. So Thomas is engaged in community relations more than law enforcement. Dialogue is now center stage, not threatening notices. Sugar, not spice.
And residents appreciate that fact, as several told Aronson. And they tend to their gardens, so to speak.
That's how government should work, for the people. Kudos to Thomas for his continuing commitment to improving neighborhoods. It's a critical job, and one that must be thankless at times. Code enforcement officers deserve the community's thanks.