Athens Mayor Steve Patterson chose the new director of the Athens Code Enforcement Office on Wednesday morning after a nearly month-long vacancy.
Though the news originally broke in a news release sent out by Deputy Service-Safety Director Ron Lucas, Patterson made an announcement during his weekly press conference, introducing new director Rick Sirois to the Athens community.
“We had a long conversation this morning as well as during the interview process, which is one of the reasons why Rick rose to the top, is looking at code and using code in a balanced way, as opposed to being so rigid or myopic in your only looking at one thing today,” Patterson said.
Sirois was given a chance to address viewers and residents who were present at the conference.
“It appears to be a very challenging position,” Sirois said. “I’m looking forward to that challenge and I think I’ll be starting March 1, and I’ll be wearing my tennis shoes because it’s a lot to be done.”
Sirois said his focus would turn to recommending amendments to the Athens City Code, which lays out the municipal laws and regulations.
“I personally do not like code that is very difficult to read,” Sirois said. “The man on the street should be able to read the code without any problems.”
Enforcing and interpreting code in a college town can be particularly difficult, Sirois said.
“We have such a transient population. It’s, every year, something different,” he said. “You may not be reading it even though your landlord’s contracts may have it in there. My teenage daughter, when she rented an apartment for college, she didn’t have a clue what that was about. So, she called Dad and we interpreted it.”
Patterson, who is a former member of Athens City Council, agreed that the code could use some clarification and updating.
“There are parts of code that don’t speak well with each other,” he said. “There are some sections under various titles that literally speak to buggies on Court Street. I don’t recall seeing a buggy on Court Street in quite some time.”
Though Sirois had plenty to say about new initiatives he had on his to-do list, the press conference touched on the downfalls of the old code office.
“So hopefully we’ll present a new image and go forward and work with the citizens and council and the mayor and provide a positive code enforcement and make proactive code enforcement,” Sirois said.
Patterson said he hopes that new image will be a little more balanced.
“Balanced code enforcement is kind of the umbrella order for the day, but the other thing is to let Rick get in and look at the strengths and the weaknesses of the people under his charge,” he said.
Though Sirois has never worked in a code enforcement office before, he said he thinks he’s prepared for the job.
“Throughout my whole career, I’ve been in inspections,” he said. “I did 20 years in the military and some very interesting positions there, which was enforcement of policies, interpreting policies.”
In addition to being a U.S. Air Force veteran, Sirois has worked as the facilities director for the Athens Catholic Community, the facilities manager for Jacksonville, NC and the police services officer for the Jacksonville Police Department among other various fields, according to his curriculum vitae.