By Joel Hall
The ongoing mission of the Clayton County Code Enforcement operation is to keep the county from falling into blight.
This month, the Clayton Police Department decided nobody does a better job of encouraging homeowners to properly maintain their homes than Linda Chase. The code enforcement operation comes under the county police department.
Chase has been named the county's Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) of the year.
Kristen Taylor, CEO supervisor, said Chase's efficiency and helpfulness have made her popular among staff, and the community.
"Linda gets a lot of praise from the public," said Taylor. "In the areas she's worked, people will ask for her to be reassigned there. People have said how she has gone above and beyond helping them with things that don't even have to do with code enforcement.
"Linda will see one of the officers getting behind and she'll approach them [to assist]," she continued. "They don't have to approach her. She pays very close attention to detail, is very organized, and extremely helpful."
Taylor said the police department's decision to honor Chase was an easy one. She was recently put in charge of all of the county's forced cleanings of abandoned properties.
Before her career at Clayton County Code Enforcement began nearly three years ago, Chase spent eight years as a personnel supervisor for a trucking service. As a part of her job, she oversaw 75-100 dock workers, and handled much of their paperwork, personnel issues, and drug screenings.
A friendly, yet firm person, Chase said working with so many personalities on the trucking docks taught her how to deal with the public.
"My priority is making sure that when I address the resident that I let them know what the expectations are," said Chase. "Our job is to keep the county clean and safe. I try to work with them. We feel that if it is clean, it will be safer."
While Chase enjoys her job, it is not without its annoyances, she said. Tall, unkempt grass can be a breeding ground for vermin and snakes. Abandoned homes can become safety hazards, as well as dens for vagrants, drug dealers, and prostitutes.
In addition, uncooperative homeowners will often release their dogs on unsuspecting code enforcement officers, she said.
The keys to being a good code enforcement officer are following through and educating the public, Chase believes.
"You have to educate residents, because a lot of people don't even know what code enforcement is," she said. "I'm really firm about going back and following up. You don't just forget, because some of them will test you."
In 2008, Clayton County Code Enforcement's 17-officer department was able to open 14,142 new cases, and close 13,291 of them. Chase said she feels rewarded when she sees the owner of a rundown property start to take her advice.
"We go by some pretty bad places," she said. "It makes you feel like you've done something to make the county nicer."