Douglas County hires new head of building codes department

After a six-month search, Douglas County has hired a Johnson County building official to become its new director of zoning and codes.

Sean Reid, currently a building program manager for Johnson County, will begin the job on Jan. 19. Reid is taking over the department as Douglas County commissioners have ordered a third-party review of its codes. The building codes department came under scrutiny after concerns were raised that the department’s former leader, Jim Sherman, had allowed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to build a house without the proper permits.

Reid said he wasn’t familiar enough with the details of that case to comment about any issues it has caused in the department. But he said he was excited about the Douglas County position, in part, because of the unusual structure of the director’s position. Typically a building official reports to the public works director or the planning director. But in Douglas County, the director reports directly to the county administrator.

“It is a relatively rare career opportunity for a building official to be a director or have a director-level position,” Reid said. “I’m really excited at this opportunity.”

Douglas County’s zoning and codes director is charged with enforcing zoning regulations and building codes and issuing building permits.

Douglas County officials in a statement said Reid was highly qualified for the position, noting that the contractor licensing program he oversaw in Johnson County was the first in the country to win the designation of a “preferred provider program” from the International Code Council.

Reid has overseen Johnson County’s contractor licensing program for about 10 years and is the current eastern vice president of the Heart of America Chapter of the International Code Council, a past presenter to the International Code Council and was featured on the cover and in an article of a prominent industry magazine this month.

Reid also has been a chief building official in Warrensburg, Mo., and Mendocino County, Calif.

Reid will be paid $90,000 a year, about $25,000 a year more than Sherman was paid, according to the county.

County commissioners in early November approved an approximately $9,200 contract for Austin Peters Group Inc. to conduct a review of the building codes department. The review won’t focus exclusively on issues that were raised during the Kobach building project, but county commissioners have said those issues will be addressed.

The codes department also found itself facing questions over inspections the former director, Sherman, provided to the Lawrence school district as part of the $92.5 million in school improvement projects approved by voters.

The consulting firm previously has said it expects the review to take about 16 weeks to complete.