Podcast: Building and Construction Services with JC Hudgison, Tampa, FL

Posted on April 6, 2021

JC Hudgison - GovLove

JC Hudgison

John (JC) Hudgison
Chief Building Official & Construction Services Center Manager
City of Tampa, Florida
LinkedIn | Twitter

Permitting and inspections. John (JC) Hudgison, the Chief Building Official and Construction Services Center Manager for the City of Tampa, Florida, joined the podcast to talk about development services. He discussed the work of a Chief Building Official in enforcing the building code and working to provide good customer service. He also shared what it was like to transition to a new job during the pandemic and his recent article for ELGL on having a seat at the table.

Host: Ben Kittelson

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Episode Transcription

Ben Kittelson  00:09

Hey ya’ll! Coming to you from Jacksonville, Florida, this is Gov Love, a podcast about love government brought to you by Engaging Local Government Leaders. I’m Ben Kittelson, Consultant at Raftelis and Gov Love co host. We’ve got a great episode for you today we’re talking development and construction services. But first, the best way to support Gov Love is to become an ELGL member. ELGL is a professional association engaging the brightest minds in government and ELGL pop ups are comin. Pop ups are ELGL’s approach to regional conferencing, and they’re gonna be hosted virtually on May 21, 2021. Tickets are on sale now. So you should visit ELGLPopUps.com to save your spot. Before we get into today’s episode, Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. With upticks in post vaccine travel right around the corner, it’s time to address short term rentals in your community. If you don’t have a short term rental regulation, or enforcement program in place, you could be missing out on tourism related tax revenue and risking damage to your communities character. Granicus host compliance helps with everything from address identification to ordinance reviews and compliance monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about short term rental regulation, and Granicus hosts compliance, go to granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information. Now, let me introduce today’s guest. JC Hudgison is the chief building official and construction services center manager for the city of Tampa, Florida, a position he’s been in since April 2020. Prior to joining Tampa, JC worked for the Columbus Consolidated Government in Georgia for 10 years. And his most recent, in several positions, and his most recent position was building inspections and code enforcement director. With that JC, welcome the Gov Love, thank you so much for joining us!

JC Hudgison  01:50

Thank you. Great to be here.

Ben Kittelson  01:52

Awesome. So we have a tradition on Gov Love to start with a lightning round to get get to know our guests a little better. So my first question for you, what was the first album that you bought?

JC Hudgison  02:03

Whew, That was a tough one. I had to think back. I’m a big sports fan. So actually, my first one I bought in the middle school was ESPN jock jams, Volume Two. Me and my brother used to play that all the time. And then we’d act like we were you know, really in the stadiums and things like that. So that was one of the first ones I really remember.

Ben Kittelson  02:20

Do you remember what like the big song on that Jock Jams was?

JC Hudgison  02:24

That one is that you had, you know, This is How We Do It with Montell Jordan, you had KC and the Sunshine Band. So we had a few of our little favorites in there that had the Macarena on there. And just anytime I hear those songs, I’m already like, man, I could never remember why I’ve remembered those so well. But now I’m like, okay, that’s probably connecting the dots.

Ben Kittelson  02:44

That’s awesome. All right, next question. Have you watched a show or movie recently that you’d recommend?

JC Hudgison  02:50

Um, I’m like I said, I lean towards sports. But if it was just a show, I’m a big action superhero group. So I’m fully immersed in the Marvel Universe. So just finished up one WandaVision and now watching the Falcon and the Winter Soldier. So I’m a Disney plus themed right now watching those shows.

Ben Kittelson  03:09

I understand. No, I spent a good chunk of the pandemic going back through the, all the Marvel movies. So I feel like I’m much better understanding but I did. Next question, what book do you give as a gift most often?

JC Hudgison  03:24

I had a book back when I was in Columbus, doing some mentoring. It’s called the Spark in the Grind by Eric Wall. It’s just one of those you know, you always feel like you have to put up be a dreamer, or dower, or you have to be analytical or ideological. And he kind of says, there’s a way to do both to be creative to give you structure and your structure then leading to creativity. So you can work from either end. So I typically gave that out when I did a mentoring class. And people, you know, they kind of felt they were in a rut, they were trying to figure out how to stay motivated, how to get motivated. So that was one of my books that I use.

Ben Kittelson  03:57

Interesting. Very cool. And then my last question for you, where do you go for inspiration?

JC Hudgison  04:03

I have to be real sappy on this one, but my wife and kids. Especially my wife is my best friend, my ying to my yang. She’s always team JC, but she can kind of give me that different perspective, sometimes when I have my blinders on. Um, and then my two young boys, Ethan and Aiden, they ask a lot of questions. So if I’m talking about construction, they’re like, Hey, Dad, what’s this? And I know if I can explain it to them, it makes sense that I know I can explain it to the public, it makes it so it usually works out pretty good. Because if they’re confused, you know, that you know, more people that don’t deal with construction with it every day. You know, they’re asking very simple questions like, how does that put together? How did that building get to be so tall? You know, trying to explain some of those things really, really kind of helps me out.

Ben Kittelson  04:44

Yeah, no, that’s a good rule of thumb. If you can explain it to your kids, it’s probably good for explaining to the public. Awesome. So one thing I always like to ask guests on the podcast is kind of their path into their current role and kind of their path in a local government. So for you, how did you end up in local government? What was kind of the path that led you to the city of Tampa?

JC Hudgison  05:03

So I worked out, I was working in my hometown, from Columbus, Georgia is where I’m from. I actually graduated from the University of Tennessee, came back to Georgia to work for a local architecture firm. So, you know, 2006, 7, 8, it was great, you know, then once seven, nine hit, you know, the recession came in, you’re like, what do I do, and then I found myself, you know, without a job, and you know, you’re fresh out of school, you’re like, Man, this is not how you see this going at all. And you know, this, then, you know, kind of the silver lining to that is the stimulus money started coming through. And so then the local city, Columbus needed a project manager to help manage the jobs. So then, you know, I threw my name in the hat. I was like, I don’t know if I’m going to get this, but no, sure enough, they call me back. And, you know, I worked with the city there for five years in that role, six years in that role. And then I was promoted to the chief builders, Chief Building Official there in 2016. And, you know, just I was working there for a little bit, and then, you know, just out of the blue, I still don’t know, I guess, my LinkedIn profile or everything else, because everyone says, I’m on social media a little too much for work. But I got a call from an executive search firm that was looking for a building official in Tampa. And you know, I hadn’t really thought about it, I was like, hey, let’s see what happens. And, you know, like I said, I put my best foot forward, and here we are.

Ben Kittelson  06:23

Very cool. Um, was there something kind of in, in those first couple jobs where you’re like, I want to stick with this, I want to stay like kind of on the local government side, rather than the developer like side?

JC Hudgison  06:35

Yeah, one of the biggest things with me is helping people and you know, as an architect, or a designer, you do get that way to help people. But unfortunately, sometimes you have parameters that are without your control, like cost. So you’re like, Hey, you know, if we had obviously X amount of money, we would do unlimited things. And you know, can’t you those shackles kind of off when you’re in the public realm, because you’re still looking at those same projects. And it’s like, cost is not a factor. You’re like, hey, this building needs to be built correctly, this project needs to be done correctly. And, you know, it kind of took that that, you know, the client is, are the people using it. Not necessarily, you know, I’m kind of focused in that micro, it’s like, we were designing a house, I’m like, Okay, well, it’s only for that owner and that user, but if I’m, you know, we’re looking at roundabouts or fire stations, it’s not just one, one person you’re looking for, you’re looking for a group, you’re looking for that community, looking for that neighborhood. So I think it was, you know, just kind of being able to have a bigger reach or being an impact to kind of shape your community.

Ben Kittelson  07:31

Very cool. And I know I mentioned in your kind of intro, and then you mentioned, taking a job in Tampa, so what was it like, I’m just curious, like switching jobs during the pandemic, because, obviously, we were well underway of the pandemic when you started in Tampa.

JC Hudgison  07:48

You know, I had to get buy in from the family to say, hey, look, we’re going to be moving to a whole new state, a whole new location, and we’re going to all have to make new friends. Honestly, I would probably say that part of the transition between that trying to find somewhere to live and having to call realtors virtually to have virtual walk through the properties because you can’t physically be here, you know, trying to get your child into school for the next coming school year, not physically knowing the area that will. That was that was a challenge. You know, we tried to kind of not necessarily sneak down here. But you know, there was, we were, all the COVID restrictions were coming up, we tried to make a few trips before we actually moved. But it was it was definitely very, you know, I had to depend on people’s point of view and some other things. And it actually worked out a friend of, one of the Friends of the family, they’re actually they actually stay in the same subdivision as us, which actually worked out, you know, they have kids of similar age. So it really worked out that we were able to kind of have a meaty network, as we got here to kind of say, Hey, you know, they’re there when the Air Force, but still, they’ve been to this area a lot longer than we have. So it kind of helped to have somebody to bounce some ideas of, Hey, have you been here? What’s a good place to eat? And at least kind of start that dialogue to kind of find out how to get around.

Ben Kittelson  08:58

Yeah, that’s fair. Well and, so, I know on Gov Love we’ve we’ve talked, you know, about planning a bunch, about a bunch of different sectors. But I don’t know that we’ve had, I think you’re our first chief building official on the podcast. So for maybe our listeners that might be unfamiliar with this role, and it’s one that I’ve learned more about in my, my current job as a consultant than I did as a Budget Analyst. And I find it fascinating. So, for maybe our listeners who are unfamiliar with the role of a Chief Building Official or kind of your day to day work, can you give us maybe a little summary of what all it encompasses?

JC Hudgison  09:31

Yeah, so, you know, as a local government employee, the the main responsibility is to regulate the building code, focus on the guidelines and the procedures on the behalf of the public regarding building safety. You know, our city of Tampa, our construction services division, you know, we deal with all of those interactions, you know, if we, if we do a good job, you don’t know where they’re, if we do a bad job, you know, something didn’t go right. So, we’d like to kind of stay pretty low key and know that things don’t have from, you know, someone you know, you plug your phone in your assumption is that you plug your phone in, it’s the proper voltage, it will charge and you will go about your day. You take your shower, you know you can regulate the hot water heater, but you know that it is at a level that will not burn and scold you, you know. So it’s like, those are the things that that we’re responsible for. My staff is responsible for those inspections. We’re responsible for the plan reviews that come in to make sure that you know, the plans meet the code. And then therefore, it’s carried out in the field, and the inspection is to validate. You know, we love contractors, we love developers, but you know, we see things on paper, and we go out in the field, and we just verify that that’s the same thing that you submitted us. So we just want to make sure that we’re keeping all those regulations in regards to building safety. Some of it even ties to, you know, our other kind of ancillary works, utilities, stormwater, all of those other things play a part in our plan review. So we unfortunately, were the gatekeeper. Typically, usually we won’t issue a permits until you’ve met all of these checkpoints and unfortunately, you know, we do get a little guff, they all you know, and we’re like, we’re working with you, we want to work with you. We never want to work against you. But these are the certain, you know, we look at is this is the minimum code standards, I said, you’re getting mad at us about upholding the minimum, we’re just trying to get you trying to get you to the minimum code standard, and then we’ll be okay.

Ben Kittelson  11:15

And I assume that, can you tell us a lot about the construction services center, I assume is that like, kind of like a one stop shop for folks?

JC Hudgison  11:21

Yeah, we tried to, we we have in our building here and development services we have it’s us, land development, which is your zoning, if you need rezonings, things like that. We have historic review, so architectural review, if you’ve got it, you know, places in a historic district. So we try to kind of have those literally within all of us managers can, you know, walk to each other’s offices. So if people do have a question, we’re all kind of close enough to each other that we can we can run it down. Or if we have to have a meeting with a client, we everyone’s pretty accessible, because we’re all in the same building. So it usually, you know, we have about 400,000 people in the city of Tampa proper. And so you know, over millions in the in the in the Tampa Bay area, but we do, you know, within the city limits there, but we try to handle as much as we can, like I mentioned, our axillaries, our water, stormwater utilities, we weren’t with them, you know, daily as well. And we actually have people that represent them, you know, I’m trying to jump too far ahead. But you know, we, with our building being close right now, it’s kind of trying to work remotely with some of those groups does add a little extra challenge to it. But ideally, just being so, getting more familiar with the process, kind of help steer people in the right direction.

Ben Kittelson  12:29

Yeah, and encouraging that collaboration across different departments. And like that, that’s key. Because that leads to better customer service for those that are trying to build, yeah. So um, I don’t think we gave a congratulations, but you are one year on the job, in the new job, right?

JC Hudgison  12:45

Yes, yes. It’s man, it has been a whirlwind, you know, just, it feels like only a year, but it feels a lot longer.

Ben Kittelson  12:56

it’s really longer than a year, but also like, no time at all right?

JC Hudgison  13:01

Correct. Yes, yes, it went by just like that. And, you know, just the, the adjustment process really wasn’t so bad. It was just, you know, learning the vocabulary here, just understanding this is this is the vocabulary, this is the City of Tampa vocabulary. So this is what you need to do, or this is the level of sufficiency or this is what a CO means here. So just learning that vocabulary, so then I can apply it and then talk to others about, you know, if they are having issues, how to resolve them. I would say, Mayor, Jane Castor was, you know, her development service advisory, like she had an advisory team that came up with a recommendation report. And this report kind of gave me a roadmap. So me coming in, it’s like, okay, what are the problems in my department, it’s not, you know, not a full audit, but it’s just like, okay, from the design community’s point of view, this is this is where we need to help. And so for me, I knew that I needed to focus on transparency, letting you know, just so we do a good job of doing what we do, but we just don’t tell people what we do. And you know, just and so it’s like, hey, let you know, this is what we do. Accountability, if we say, Hey, we’re going to tell you that we’re going to review your plans within 10 days, are we doing that? Or is that just some note, we put in a budget line item, they said that we were going to do that and we never did it? And so to be accountable for that, to show that, you know, we do meet those requirements and streamlining the process, just the building process, just once again, mentioning with all the ancillary offices and projects we have to deal with, it’s just been so you know, drawn out and you know, sometimes we try to get, got to get people out of those silos to say, Hey, this is a project this is where we’re trying to get it to go. What can we do to make that process as efficient as possible? We don’t want you to have to submit three, four or five times the permits, we want you to submit once or twice understand what we need and go from there. So I think the biggest thing was me, was hosting the Superbowl this year. So, that coming to town, having to really get on a you know, an educated fast track as to what what we would allow what we wouldn’t, I me and the Fire Marshal became great buddies because we had to walk some of these sites the week of the Superbowl to make sure everything was legit and met fire safety requirements and met life safety. And also think about the pandemic, a lot of these buildings that were normally not as big or didn’t have to be as big because of social distancing, you know, taking the press rooms and things like that they had to double and triple in size to accommodate the same amount of people. So it’s like, these structures are getting a lot bigger, a lot more complicated, just because of the type of work they still want it to do and still have for the Super Bowl. So that was definitely an experience, you know, because you have temporary facilities, you know, permanent, not a lot of permanent structures, but just all different types of things that kind of, you know, real challenging, but they were fun, they were rewarding. Once we, once the Superbowl was over, we could all say, Okay, now we can take it all in. Everybody will say we didn’t have any incidents. And we did a good job.

Ben Kittelson  15:50

Yeah. Well, when you’re coming in new to an organization, like like city, Tampa, like, what, when you peel back the, like, 10 day review cycle, or like, we want to make this more streamlined, like I know, you know, from some projects I’ve worked on that there could be a whole lot of layers to that of like, why 10 isn’t accomplishable. Or why, you know, the process is the way it is. How do you start tackling that to be like, we want to get to this, you know, this 10 Day Review number, if that’s the goal, or we want to make this more streamlined than it currently is. What was kind of your approach to like to like tackling those because I know that can be big challenges that don’t seem like that big from the outside or from a budget background.

JC Hudgison  16:27

I think, you know, just kind of the way that the system we have set up with our you know, we we don’t start that 10 day clock unless we have what’s called a sufficiency check. So that means we have a whole, our, we kind of pushed our permit technicians and and some of the plan review into a what we call a client facilitator, and that person, makes sure that the project is sufficient because the you know, we’d hate to get it in and it doesn’t have a site plan. We’re like, Well, we know what the build looks like, we don’t know what site is projected, and you’re like this is terrible. So it’s like no, our clock doesn’t start until we know that we have the bare minimum, you provide us that documentation. You know, as we talk on about FEMA requirements, flood requirements, those type of documents that you are a licensed contractor to perform the work if you’re an owner doing your own work, that we have all that documentation in place, and your fees are paid before we we start that clock. So then we’re not using unnecessary time shuffling papers to say I don’t see this, where is this? And now we’re having back and forth about you know, documents are missing. So if we at least set the baseline of what your sufficiency is. And then that’s when we really, our plan reviewers can really focus on just reviewing the plans instead of trying to make sure do I have all these pages? Are Pages missing? No, that’s been checked into previous step to kind of help us with those timelines.

Ben Kittelson  17:45

When just you know, as you’re coming into a new city, what are some of the different development challenges in Tampa, compared to where you were in Columbus, Georgia?

JC Hudgison  17:53

Just, you know, for me on the building code side, especially is just you know, Florida is a peninsula. So we’re definitely more prone to hurricanes. So any of our wind loads, our wind designs, our wind debris zones, all of those things are now a lot more important. Like I said, I knew where they were in Georgia, and I knew they would work. But I was, you know, I was on the west side of Georgia, between Georgia and Alabama. We never, I think the time that we might have had one tropical storm that might have been it, but you know, obviously, I know people that would have worked in Savannah that might have been a bigger part of their book, but here in Tampa, where we are where you can get hit from a hurricane from all directions. No, not not obviously as bad as Miami but you know, being in central Florida still being prone to those, you know that wind debris and wind, wind codes are, do have a little bit more weight. Also, you know, the building codes typically respond to the environment that you’re in. The senior population here 65 and older is almost 20% of the population here. So therefore accessibility, those things that weren’t necessarily as high in Georgia, not that it wasn’t important, but it just wasn’t made as a priority. You know, the state of Florida has some of the most strictest accessibility codes in the nation, they’re more strict than ADA, just because of the population that we’re in. So just making sure that those things are incorporated, especially from developers and designers coming from out of state that haven’t maybe done a lot of work in Florida, you know, we kind of push those to make sure they’re aware of those things because once again, when we say our review process, we know some of those things are missing because you know just they just haven’t done a lot of work in this area.

Ben Kittelson  19:30

When you’re switching states in a field like construction services, is the building code tend to be pretty similar, it’s just maybe you know different chapters are more accentuated or become a bigger deal or is it or do you kind of re-learn the job each time?

JC Hudgison  19:43

Yeah, kind of across the country we have the the international Code Council, so that is kind of the baseline generally for for most states. I know Texas and some others are not totally adopting all of the the ICC code and ICC family and then typically each state you know, absolutely California has more with earthquake standards. So those things, they have whole sections that that add amendments to that same thing for Florida. So we actually have the Florida building code, which is, you know, based off of the the ICC, but then we add Florida amendments based on you know, we have things necessarily kicking in for restaurants and things like that, because we are a tourist, you know, tourist state. So some of those things are a little bit tailored more to those kind of items. So it’s just kind of, it’s taken me a little bit, you know, each day kind of has their own certification process. So I got my certified building official certification here in the state. So I can be called a, what is my name, a building code administrator, you know, but in the state of Georgia, I just had to get my CBO license from ICC and I was okay, because Georgia didn’t have as many amendments as Florida did. But you know, if you go to North Carolina, North Carolina has a lot of amendments. New York State has a lot of amendments, New York City has their own books, Chicago just did their own. So it’s just, you know, just learning those little nuances, you know, but you try the intent of the ICC is to be as standardized as you can. So therefore, it doesn’t matter where you do work. There may be a few tweaks here and there. But generally, we’re all on the same page. So, yeah,

Ben Kittelson  21:09

That makes sense. Well, I know we talked a little bit about you switching jobs during the pandemic, but for, how did you kind of get an understanding, kind of meet staff like, coming into your new department, you know, without being able to see folks in person?

JC Hudgison  21:24

Um, I guess one of the good things was that I did actually, my second interview was an in person interview, so I got to at least meet some of my staff. I didn’t quite know it at the time, because I wasn’t sure if I was gonna get the job. But I was like, hey, we’ve met you before. Yeah, you went interview and I was like, Okay, well, at least I can kind of mannerisms, the person I’m dealing with. I’m kind of somewhat familiar. Um, but yeah, we, I’d have to think you know, our IT, our TNI department for helping me get set up virtually because my first month I actually worked from April to May, until we physically moved here, I was working virtually. So they shipped me my computer, and my phone, you know, we got on the GoToMeetings, we got on Zoom meetings, and Microsoft Teams, all those good things to have discussions. But I really learned my staff, as we started working through problems. They were like, hey, we’ve got an issue with this project, we’ve got an issue with that project, whether it’s on the plan, review, side, plan submission side or some on the inspection side, that’s how I really got to know my staff, because I knew kind of what our strengths and weaknesses were. Okay, we can handle this, we may not be able to handle that, Oh, well, maybe we need to look at a new process, because this is something that may have fallen through the cracks. So we’ve tried to kind of balance it that way. And we’re slowly getting back, our staff is kind of week in and week out in the office. So the doors may be closed, but I’m getting to know my staff kind of week on week off. I hadn’t been here when everybody’s been here. But just learning that side is just just a slow process, but it’s going.

Ben Kittelson  22:49

Do you think you’ll y’all will open to the public like soon? Or is there a timeline for that yet?

JC Hudgison  22:53

I would hope this year, you know, like I said, it’s been a year without it. So for me, you know, everyone’s saying, oh, parking is so nice. And I’m like, parking is nice because everyone’s not in the building. So once we finally get back to full strength, it’ll definitely be another transition. But I think just groupwise, you know, we have weekly meetings with all of our kind of our sections, whether it’s the client facilitator staff, the plan review staff, or the inspection staff. So, you know, they get to hear from me, if we have any questions, we can go back and forth, if they you know, we’re looking at a trouble project, and I’m meeting them out on site to kind of go over some of the things and look at it. So we’re trying to, you know, just try to make the best of the situation. You know, we’ve we’ve kind of weathered the most immediate concerns, obviously, with everyone getting vaccinated and things like that we’re hoping to slowly get back towards being open, hopefully, by the end of the year.

Ben Kittelson  23:41

And just out of curiosity, were your staff doing in person like inspections throughout the pandemic? Or did any of that shift to virtual?

JC Hudgison  23:48

Well, we, we shut down probably the whole crew right before I got here, maybe 48 hours, kinda in the month of March to kind of come up with a plan. We focused on as much no contact as we could, we would ask them, you know, we kind of gave them we actually gave all the clients that we went to their job sites, little cards to say, Hey, give us the six feet of distance. You know, if you don’t have to work on this floor, keep it as clear as possible. So we can come in and out. One of the things we did on some of our higher jobs or threshold buildings, our bigger projects, we actually had a separate nursing team come in, and make sure we had wash stations and make sure that we had nurses that would make sure that the thermometer checks people were being checked for for all of that kind of stuff. And I think they’re really helped kind of put our staff at ease that it wasn’t like, Hey, we’re just sending you out here to the wolves. It’s like no, we are providing you some protection, you know, it’s obviously it’s not the best and you know, if anybody had any problems, we you know, we we’d listened to them and made sure we made those changes. So, that was probably one of the things that kind of protected us the most is that we were able to still work we were still able to provide services.

Ben Kittelson  24:55

Yeah, interesting. So shifting gears a little bit I know, like, just since I’ve moved to Florida, that one of the big, like development challenges here at the State kind of pretty much everywhere is flooding and stormwater management. And then before we sort of hit record, we were talking a little bit about how there’s a new stormwater ordinance in Tampa. So how is that going? what’s what’s that kind of been like?

JC Hudgison  25:19

What we’ve done, we really just got an approved through FEMA, and our city council is our new flood ordinance, which provides additional protections and benefits for homes, being in the Special Flood Hazard Area. Kind of Tampa itself is somewhat also of a peninsula in a peninsula in the bay. So, you know, we have almost, you know, a third of our properties or parcels are actually somewhat touched about flood or can be a flood hazard. So, protecting those properties, you know, for mitigation reasons, for resiliency reasons, definitely is is is paramount to the administration, and they actually have with Whit Remer, our resiliency officer and I meet with him pretty regularly to kind of go over these things to figure out how we can strengthen our local codes to protect people. So you know, looking at those Special Flood Hazard areas, and building above the DFE, to design flood elevation, to make sure that we’re maintaining that now, you know, obviously coming back to urban infill, if you’re looking at lots that were in the flood, and now you’re meeting to the new standard, there are some elevation issues. And we’re, we’re trying to work that through with the code to kind of not make that be as Stark as it is. But you know, just some of those issues we’re working through. But one of the big things we just also added to it was a what’s called a non conversion agreement. So if you’re below the flood zone, we don’t want you to make it worse. So you can’t close your garage, if it’s just an area where you can park we will allow you to do that. But once you know, but you can’t enclose that garage, you can’t enclose that area below the flood area. And so actually, that document will travel with the with the with the property now. So it has to be deeded, and it goes with the deed. And that gets us communities, community rating points that can actually translate into better insurance rates for everyone in the city. So we’re really trying to kind of be consistent in that, you know, and try to incorporate all of that to you know, try to try to pick out the positive. We say that you are living in a flood zone area, but hey, if we do enforce these codes, the way they should be enforced, you get you know, you get a higher discount on your on your rent because of on your on your rates because of what the city has put in place. So we try to sell it that way as opposed to you must do this because you’re in the flood zone. So definitely try to hit them with the honey and not the vinegar.

Ben Kittelson  27:31

Yeah. What’s what’s the relationship with maybe like stormwater management and kind of like the what do you do with the water once it’s once it once it once it’s there versus kind of the setting up the construction? You know, at each site?

JC Hudgison  27:45

Well, it just, once again, it just depends on the percentage of pervious surface Do you have to retain it on site or dispell it. We work with stormwater, he does it like during our 10 day or 15 day if you’re doing commercial plan review process. It goes through those hands. So we have we have now we have certified floodplain managers on our end, which are our professionals, our plan reviewers are, you know, dually architects, engineers, and floodplain managers. So it kind of helps us to be able to have that knowledge spread out. And then also we still send it over stormwater, just so they’re aware of what’s going on, especially in larger commercial jobs. Just because that is a big impact. You’ve got a whole condo that’s going in and it used to just be you know, a duplex and now we’ve got, now we’ve got this, you know, 25 story condo coming in, where’s it going to go? Where’s all that going to flow from? So we definitely make sure on those that they are involved, and we get their blessing before we allow the permit to be issued.

Ben Kittelson  28:39

Okay, that makes sense. We’ll be right back to today’s episode. Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. With upticks in post vaccine travel right around the corner, it’s time to address short term rentals in your community. Short term rentals are often found on sites like Airbnb and VRBO, and if you don’t have a short term rental regulation enforcement program in place, you could be missing out on tourism related tax revenue and risking damage to your communities character. Granicus host compliance has helped over 350 communities with their short term rental challenges, from address identification, to ordinance reviews and compliance monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about short term rental activity in your area, or best practices for regulation and enforcement, visit Granicus comm for a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information. Now back to the show. Anything else like that you’ve seen in your first year that you want to share with listeners or that it’s been kind of a good lesson for you?

JC Hudgison  29:33

No, I think that, you know, it’s just the biggest thing about building in the building code is typically it is, unfortunately traditionally been an adversarial kind of relationship. Like, oh, Because I said so. And you must do it because I said so. And, you know, I don’t I don’t typically like to make judgment that way. I like to say hey, if you violated something, I can point you to the code and section that you violated or whether it’s the building code, whether it’s a local ordinance, I can point to you and say, Okay, well, you violated this or you violated that, um, you know, just and understanding that, you know, sometimes that we have, you know, performance measures that you have, you know, that, you know, we have prescriptive method, that is the exact number, okay, you can’t have dead in corridor, you know, you can’t meet this dimension, or your treads have to be a certain depth, okay, that those are set numbers. But sometimes there’s performance measures, and there’s certain things that as long as you meet the intent of the code, and you can show me that you’re, you’re getting your fire rating, or whatever you need. We’re okay. And so a lot of times, it’s just trying to explain the code. You know, a lot of times people are looking for, you know, there’s something, you know, maybe something odd or, you know, we may have a swimming pool on top of a six story parking deck, and how, you know, how are we how are we accounting for the people leaving that parking deck, normally, on the parking deck, it is what it is. But if you have, you know, a swimming pool full of 200 people have those same people going to get out. So, you know, just just trying to explain, hey, let’s look at these a little differently. And you know, what, one another adjacency I definitely can’t miss is the fire supervision group, our fire guys are right next door to me, we can look at these things about fire egress. How do you get out of this? How do you look at this? How would you know, because as much as the building code is about protecting the people that are in it, it’s definitely about protecting the first responders that have to go into it. So if we’re looking at it from that, and as well as like, Hey, you know, this, this property needs to maintain two hours, it might not take you two hours to get out of that building, but it may take you two hours for the fire department to clear that building, and to make sure everyone is out. So when you think about it, kind of in that respect, it definitely makes a little bit more sense. And it’s just, you know, one of the things I’ve worked with the ICC international code counselors, you know, they one of their things is, is raising the profile of the building official, I will go talk to anybody, I will go reach out to anybody, because building safety affects everyone, everyone sleeps in a building, you know, majority, you know, absolutely you know differences there. But you know, people deal with a building. And like I said, they don’t think about it unless something goes wrong. If everything goes, right, you walk into your new house, you don’t have any problems, you know, your building is fine. It’s not falling in, you’re not having any settlement, things like that. We did our job. But like I said, it’s just sometimes we need people out there to trumpet that to say, Hey, we do do a good job, we get beat up sometimes. But we do do a good job. And so I think just trying to push that narrative to raise the profile of the building official, and their contribution to the design community is not an impediment. It is a we’re just a regulator. We’re trying to help you get there, but there’s certain things you got to follow.

Ben Kittelson  32:35

Yeah, well, I think the more the more I learned about like construction services, or building officials, and kind of the work they do, like, the more like, you see how many different like, industries and departments and, you know, types of work, it touches, like you mentioned, the fire, you know, fire marshal and fire inspections, and, you know, it touches water and sewer and stormwater touches planning and, and you get into economic development, like, the faster you guys are at your job, the more development can happen in a city. So it’s amazing how many different things kind of can touch, you know, building, building officials and kind of construction services. So one, one thing I wanted to make sure to ask you about is, you wrote a great article for ELGL, in February, and we’ll be sure to link to in our show notes. But you talked about having kind of a seat at the table and your experience as the first black like, you know, every position you got, I think you said fill in the blank, first black, as you kind of receive promotions and went up through the ranks. So just maybe, you know, in, within construct, you know, construction services, what how do you think that field does in terms of diversity inclusion? And, you know, what’s, what’s kind of the progress on that front?

JC Hudgison  33:53

You know, obviously, I think any, any place can be improved on that, you know, because, you know, you look at the representation you like, you know, if you look at the labor force, you do see that it’s more black and Hispanic. But if you look at who’s in building safety, and who’s in construction, that, you know, construction managers, that that there’s not, it’s not equivalent, is the best way to put it. So, you know, I think two of the professional organizations I’m a part of ICC and AIA American Institute of Architects are starting to make it known, the representation, and creating those avenues for minorities to be seen in their importance to design the design community. You know, typically in local government, I’m I, you know, I’m currently getting my master’s in public administration. So, going through some of the diversity and representation and knowing to have a representative bureaucracy just to understand that, you what you what you were doing, you should have a representative equivalent in that, you know, a lot of people you know, you know, as much as you know, we’re all different people, but you do feel comfortable with people you can relate to, and you know, and so if you feel that, you know, especially, I would take it here in Tampa, you know, it’s definitely has a higher Hispanic community. And so we knew for sure that we need to make sure that we have Hispanic plan reviewers, Hispanic client facilitators, and Hispanic inspectors, therefore, you have someone out there speaking the language. There’s nothing lost in translation. So just simple things like that, you know, it has to be seen as a, you know, you don’t want diversity forced upon you. We’re not, you know, necessarily affirmative action and things like that, but more of an acceptance that it that it benefits everyone that it’s there not, we must have this because someone said so. So I think if more of the acceptance comes around, I think it’s a lot easier to then transcend these places. And like I said, I don’t want to be the first blank, I would I would prefer, you know, you know, that that comes with, like I mentioned in my article, it comes with a little bit of weight. But it also understands that you know, that you don’t necessarily want to be the first one or have to be the first one. But if you know some of that representation, if no one sees anybody ever that looks like them in that position, and they feel that that position is not for them.

Ben Kittelson  36:05

What do you think, can be done to like, begin to make progress on on, on diversity within the field? I, like you mentioned, some of the frontline staff, especially in the private sector, like tends to be, you know, more diverse than then in the management level, what what are you what, what’s your perspective on kind of ways that maybe a local government can help improve that?

JC Hudgison  36:26

I think you know, I think all groups probably need to develop more in their mentorship programs, I think just, you know, because sometimes you don’t know if you can approach that person, you don’t know if that person is approachable, or you may not want to approach somebody in your department, your immediate supervisor, because you may have, you know, some different issues there. But if you, you know, I think more groups need to develop mentorship programs to, so you kind of have that safe space that you can talk to someone about progressing in your life. Like I mentioned, in my article there, I had two great mentors, the City Manager in Columbus, as well as Dr. James Worsley, who’s now in Richmond, Virginia, you know, both of them, as I looked at my career moves, those were people I picked the phone up and called. You know, because I was like, hey, how, what do you ask for if you’re looking for a contract negotiations? Do you ask for moving expenses? Do you not ask, you know, those type of things, I wouldn’t have not known to ask at all, or even broach the topic. But because someone had been there before or someone that I trusted it, I could ask that question, you know, I got honest answers, I was able to, you know, make a great situation. So I think just just that mentorship, and it’s tough, it really is very organic. So I have a story with the previous ICC president, that literally I just wanted to be a part of the shadow program. So I literally stalked him for like two weeks, until I finally found him at a meeting that I could ask him that I wanted to be a part of the shadow program. And then I ended up going with him to Columbus, Ohio for our annual business conference that year, and I really got involved, and I got to see a different side of this project, and a different side of ICC that I would have never seen if I just you know, so sometimes you gotta gotta put yourself out there and see what happens. But, you know, I think if people know, you, you know, looking past your color, and how you look, if, if they, you know, they can kind of see what you’re about, like I said, they see that you’re truly a public servant, and you want to help the community, I think doors will open for you that are available.

Ben Kittelson  38:22

Well, I think there’s also a value in not only in like, the, the equity piece, and kind of it’s the right thing to do for local governments, but like, to your point about being able to communicate to the folks doing the work in the field and being very clear on like, you know, what’s going on, and there’s nothing, like you said lost in translation, like, there’s a value in that that is worth is worth, like pursuing just, you know, you see that in any kind of a department that does engagement, you know, from planning or whatever, but so it makes sense that it would it would be beneficial in inspections as well, and plan review. Alright, so, one, one thing I know, we’ve touched on this a little bit, but for kind of your department and kind of serving the development community in Tampa, what’s what have, and you mentioned a couple of ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you all, but, what are kind of the other ways that it’s impacted the way you guys provide services? And yeah, what’s that been like?

JC Hudgison  39:21

You know, since like I said, I’ve been here a year, and the doors, front doors have been closed. So we have not been opened officially to the public, they can call email, but physically, you know, kind of sit down meetings and used to bring in your plans via paper, you know, that’s just not there right now. I have to really also give a shout out to the previous building official, John Barrios who was here that kind of, you know, kind of worked with creating the technology in getting Tampa on this this track because that benefited us. I know, kind of my previous jurisdiction. We didn’t have digital permitting. Like there wasn’t an option like we had to be open, Because we had to take permits, and we had to take money, you know, but here like our doors are closed, we’re 100% Digital. And we’ve actually, our construction value actually increased 45%, we went from $3.1 billion to $4.5 billion in this last year, last fiscal year. And we went all digital. So to be able to still the, you know, to still be able to go on during a pandemic, because construction is is open, we are open, you can come in submit permits, you can, it does it online, it improves the efficiency of our department as well, because you’re not having to take the paper permits plus the digital permits, put it in the system, it’s all digitized, it’s already there. So it’s just going through that you’re not having to pull from both places or get distracted, it’s like, hey, these projects are coming in, let’s check for sufficiency, off the plan review, they’re in plan review, get the permit, they can post on site. And now we’re into inspections. And so the technology has allowed us to be able to continue to do all of that, even though we don’t have, we have very limited face to face interaction with the public. So I really, has made us a lot more efficient. And ideally, you know, you’ll still have some people that’ll want to come in and submit a piece of paper. And, you know, we will take those and we we have an imager that unfortunately scans those. But she’s definitely had a lot less work these days. Because we just don’t, we just don’t do that as much anymore, so.

Ben Kittelson  41:22

So did you have full digital submittal and review before the pandemic/

JC Hudgison  41:26

Yes, so that’s why I said all of these things were kind of in play, so then when he came in, it wasn’t us testing it, we already had a proven model that had already been done. So our plan room, our permitting system, all of that was already in place. So when they did shut down, we were like, we can still operate, you know, we just don’t have a register, we won’t take any money. But we can still you still paying via credit card, you can still pay online. So to have those abilities built in really helped us stay, stay where we were and get better. You know, when the Superbowl came, we weren’t worried about permits, because we you know, you got vendors from all over the country submitting things to do projects. And we were like, No, we can, you know, you go to our go to our web page for our permitting, submit your permits, upload your drawings, we provide your plan review right in the documentation, you’re ready to go. Print your, print your permit placard, put it on, put it on site, and we’re off to the races. So yeah, I’m really glad that that was just a fortunate situation to step into.

Ben Kittelson  42:21

Yeah, yeah, what a good example of like, why you want to kind of stay on, you want to implement new things and try to be efficient and like, you know, implement new technologies when it’s available, because you never know when it might be the only way you can operate.

JC Hudgison  42:34

That’s right. That’s right.

Ben Kittelson  42:37

So did you all have anybody kind of I assume, based on kind of what you said earlier that there are some folks work from home. And, and so obviously, like, some of the way y’all do work has changed, do you think any of that will kind of become, you know, part of your your day to day work, once things are more back to normal, Will any of the changes kind of become more permanent?

JC Hudgison  42:58

Yeah, we had some, like, just kind of due to our building size, we, you know, we can’t obviously just get bigger. So we have some areas that are you know, would be less than the six foot separation, we think some of that staff will probably stay virtual for the near future, just until we really get to a point where we’re, we feel comfortable, you know, either herd immunity happens or whatever. But, you know, just some of that, I think some of that staff members, because, you know, they’re more of our dispatch, to receiving calls and in transferring them to the right department so that, you know, it would be great to absolutely have everybody housed all 83 people that I’m responsible for in the same building, but also understanding that that is, you know, just just being realistic and looking out for everyone’s best interest. So I think some of that will still stay. Many of our digital ways to do things, you know, one of the best worst things about virtual meetings is that, you know, you get booked on the hour, every hour now, because no one’s counting for travel time. So it’s like you have a meeting at two, three and four. And you’re like, Okay, so you know, but it also increases your availability, if we’re like, hey, if the client is really having a problem, instead of trying to find a conference room, try to schedule eight people schedules, when you can be there that we can be able to meet virtually, pull up the plans right online, everybody’s looking at the plans and come to a resolution. You know, we can have a 30 minute meeting. And we’re done. You know, we get past that point, we move forward. So I think, especially using Teams and GoToMeeting and Zoom, to be able to get some of those things across, I really think a lot of those are going to stay in place. Because especially if you’re having a meeting you’re trying to get you know, we started doing some outreach to the design community. So we have like, you know, we have 30 people on this call, you know, trying to fit 30 people in the conference room, parking all it’s like no, you know, we can still get the information across to you via the PowerPoint, you can still have it you still have deliverables. They have a way to you know get feedback from us. We have a video on so you can see us and you know, we go through the documentation. So I really think some of those things will definitely be here to stay.

Ben Kittelson  44:55

That makes good sense. So, you’re a year in what do you have kind of planned for the coming year? What do you what do you think will be the kind of the big things you want to work on or change within the department?

JC Hudgison  45:05

You know, like I mentioned is you really want to continue working on streamlining the process, we still want to continue to work on our efficiencies, and we set that goal that it’s 10, you know, that we want to go to eight, and we want to get that aggressive, do we want to, you know, kind of look at those numbers and see where we want to go, you know, kind of using, you know, actually see taxpayer money and using it the best efficient way, if we can, if there’s a way that we see we can save money, and still provide a adequate level of service, we want to do that. So I’m really this is kind of I’m currently in budget season. So it’s really interesting to see, you know, the line items, because this is my first budget here. So just understanding that, who goes where, we’re paying for what, oh, where does that, you know, just trying to put all those pieces together has definitely been interesting. And you know, we just want to get better. I think you know just our, really push our website, you know, I know a lot of people, you have some people that aren’t web savvy, and you know, that is what it is. But right now, because of the pandemic, that’s, that’s the only place you can really get you know, for us, I call it our 24/7 billboards. You know, regardless, if you’re in the middle of the night, you want to do an addition to your house, you know, you might type in construction services city of Tampa or City of Tampa permit, and it comes up, you know, we want that information to be as accurate as possible. We want that information to be as current as possible. If changes are made, we want you to be aware of those changes. Like I said, it’s just that, that transparency, letting people you know, I’d rather telegraph what’s coming, take all the growth that’s going to come from it, but at least you know, at least you were known before. It wasn’t, oh we doing it on Friday, and it’s gonna change on Monday. And then everyone’s like, well, what happened? So we really tried to push a lot of that stuff that we’ve done just so you know, we understand what’s going on. So I think a lot of those things will continue with us. And, you know, like I said, My thing is getting out there, you know, meeting the community, I really haven’t. That’s one of my things. I’m really, you know, Columbus was my hometown so I had a little built in advantages. But But even across the state of Georgia, you know, I could go places and talk to people in and get different points of view. And I’d like to do the same thing here in Florida. You know, once all the things get a little bit more relaxed, and we start having meetings and conferences and things like that.

Ben Kittelson  47:11

Awesome. Awesome. All right, so we have a traditional last question on Gov Love. So if you could be the Gov Love DJ, what song would you pick as your exit music for this episode?

JC Hudgison  47:23

Man, that’s that was probably the toughest of all the questions. That was the, I would say that was probably the toughest one. Oh, my my kids, typically I’m riding to school listening to my kid’s music. So we ended up getting mixed up with our songs because it’s definitely different. But I’d probably say, Lupe Fiasco The Show Goes On. We’re here. It’s gonna we’re gonna keep rolling. You know, the, the jobs are gonna keep coming. And we’re gonna be here and the show goes on. We’re gonna be here to try to help it as best we can.

Ben Kittelson  47:53

Awesome. That’s great. We’ll get that cued up. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to some Lupe, so that’s great. All right, that ends our episode today. JC, thank you so much for coming on and talk with me. I really appreciate you sharing your expertise and all your experience. So thank you.

JC Hudgison  48:10

No problem. Thank you, sir.

Ben Kittelson  48:12

And for our listeners. Gov Love is brought to you by Engaging Local Government Leaders. You can reach us online at ELGL.org/GovLove or on Twitter at the handle @GovLovePodcast. The best way to support Gov Love is by joining ELGL. Membership is $50 for individual, 25 bucks for students, or you can sign up your whole organization. You should also get ready for ELGL pop ups on May 21, 2021. These regional events are a great way to learn more about local government topics in your area. Visit ELGLPopUps.com to learn more and register. Subscribe to Gov Love on your favorite podcast app. And if you’re already subscribed, go tell a friend or colleague about this podcast. help us spread the word that Gov Love is the go to place for local government stores. With that, thank you for listening. It’s been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.

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