Staff Intern: Graham Robson Susan Carpenter, who has worked for the city of Suwanee since 2004, was recently promoted from building inspector to building official. Carpenter has gained several certifications in inspections and code enforcement, and was recognized by the City Council in March for her contributions to the Planning and Inspections Department.
SUWANEE -- Since her predecessor retired three years ago, Susan Carpenter has assumed extra work in Suwanee's building inspections and code enforcement departments. With the city's new budget now adopted, she's being rewarded.
Carpenter, who has worked for the city since 2004, has been promoted from a building inspector to a building official, which means she has the power to approve alternative methods of construction. Her superiors at the city, City Manager Marty Allen and Planning Director Josh Campbell have lauded Carpenter's work this spring in discussions with the city council.
Her promotion was the only personnel upgrade for an existing employee in Suwanee's fiscal year 2013 budget.
In March, when Carpenter was recognized at a council meeting, Campbell said she took the department from a reactive one that handled complaints, to a department that looks for solutions.
Carpenter has earned 13 certifications from the International Code Council on commercial, residential, property maintence and zoning areas that deal with plumbing, mechanical, energy and building inspections. She also has two certifications from the American Association of Code Enforcement, and is a member of five professional organizations.
Carpenter's tenure in Suwanee has seen a building boom, and a downturn, as her department has been cut in half since 2009.
"I certainly understand the last three years have been tough," she said. "But it's been a learning experience for me to train and learn new policies and procedures."
During the downturn, Carpenter gained knowledge in more sophisticated inspections, so the city didn't have to contract that work out because Carpenter could handle it, Allen said.
She's also seen an advancement in technology.
In 2008, a deficiency was written out by hand. Now, Carpenter and her colleagues carry tablets, portable printers and wireless internet hot spots to record their reports electronically. Carpenter said the technology upgrades were sorely needed, and helped the department become more efficient.
The Kansas native began her career in code enforcement in the 1980s, where she worked for several municipalities. But she moved to Suwanee about eight years ago from Phoenix because her husband's job was relocated.
Allen said he's attended inspections with Carpenter when he noticed that she's earned the respect of contractors and builders where someone in her position almost always delivers bad news.
"I don't receive complaints about her," Allen said. "But I see her doing what she's supposed to be doing, which is giving advice, making sure things are constructed properly, following the codes. She's got a very good tact, got a very good approach, and she's deserving because she's performing that level of work."
Carpenter said she understands how that inspectors often have a negative perception.
"I want to change that perception," Carpenter said. "We want to ensure it's built safely, and contractors understand that, and welcome that, for the most part."