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Keeping homes in check

George makes sure properties meet expectations

September 30, 2012
By BILL SHEA, , Messenger News

Shawn George spends his workdays searching for junk laden nuisance properties and making sure apartments are safe.

After work, and any other time a constituent calls, he helps lead the small town he where lives as a member of the City Council.

And he never knows when he might be called upon to deal with a crisis as a volunteer firefighter.

George has multiple roles and multiple ways to serve the public.

He is the nuisance and rental property inspector for the city of Fort Dodge.

Additionally, he is serving his first full term as a member of the City Council in Callender, where he is also a volunteer firefighter.

He has further committed himself to the betterment of that city by acting as what he calls a ''behind the scenes member'' of Callender Area Revitalization Efforts.

His public service career began in 2004, when he was hired by the city of Fort Dodge as a sanitation worker in the Public Works Department. Prior to taking that position, he had worked in a series of retail jobs. George said he was tired of retailing, and he liked the sanitation worker hours of 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays.

The job, he said, enabled him to see all areas of the city and watch them develop.

But after about eight years, George felt the need to do something different.

''Throwing the garbage every day was just wearing on me,'' he said.

He applied for the inspector's job and won the position. He started in that role on July 23.

George generally starts his work day by investigating complaints about things like overgrown lawns, accumulations of garbage, and unlicensed or inoperable vehicles parked in yards. If he finds that there is a violation of city codes, a letter is sent to the property owner directing them to fix the problem. George said the property owner then has 48 hours to make progress on the problem before the city government sends a contractor to take care of it.

While many Fort Dodge residents may consider workplace meetings to be a nuisance, George literally has a nuisance meeting every week. During those sessions, he confers with other city officials about various nuisance property issues.

Starting at around 9 a.m., each workday he begins inspecting apartments and rental houses. His inspections consist of things like making sure smoke detectors work and ensuring that electrical outlets are grounded.

''I like to say it's mainly safety and security,'' George said.

Three months after taking the inspector's job, George is pleased with his new role.

''I like it,'' he said. ''It's got a decent pace to it. Basically, your day's a full variation of everything.''

His role as a Callender councilman gives him another perspective on how local governments work. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council in July 2010. In November of that year, he won his first full four-year term.

''I can see my paid job from a different aspect ,'' he said. ''You kind of get an all-around view of it. Not everything is so one-sided.''

Since he's been in office, the council has tackled a storm sewer project and is working to address dilapidated properties.

''We're just mainly working on getting the town cleaned up,'' he said.

George joined the all-volunteer Callender Fire Department in 2004.

''They were short on guys just like every town is,'' he said. ''I kind of wanted to get involved, help people out.''

He recalled that the first significant emergency he responded to was a house fire south of Callender. Now, he is certified as a firefighter II, driver and pump operator, and emergency medical technician (basic).

George said he became a ''behind the scenes member'' of Callender Area Revitalization Efforts because he wanted to be involved, but didn't want to go to a bunch of meetings. He said his role often consists of helping other volunteers set up for special events.

He is a graduate of Prairie Valley High School. He and his wife, Kelli, have two sons.



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