Building Inspector Dick Pokorny to Retire January 7

Dick Pokorny To Retire After 21 Years with City of Marshfield

As either electrical inspector or building inspector for the City of Marshfield for 21 years, and many decades previously spent in all aspects of related jobs, on January 7, 2017 Dick Pokorny is calling it a career.

Pokorny’s career path began in the late 1970’s when he worked as an electrician for a company in Central Wisconsin.

“As their head electrician, I worked all over the State of Wisconsin, UP Michigan and Northern Illinois,” he said.

In those days, there wasn’t any centralized electrical licensing. Then in early summer of 1986, Wisconsin began a Master Electrician’s program and administered a challenging exam for certification. Though many failed, Pokorny passed with high marks and became Wisconsin’s 42nd Master Electrician.

Also interested in the academic side of the electrical trade, in the mid-late 1980’s, Pokorny taught night school classes at various technical colleges and businesses.

“These were short sessions mainly on basic electricity and also electrical safety for operators of large machinery,” he said. “Later in the 1980’s I helped out teaching motors and controls at the tech school and then ended up getting talked into teaching this 90-hour motors and controls class. Starting in 1993, people at the Wausau campus decided that I should teach a 30-hour electrical code class each calendar year.”

That annual tradition of teaching a code class continued every year at one of four technical school campuses and for the last dozen years has been only been taught by Pokorny in Marshfield.

With both hands-on and book experience, and with certifications in plumbing, heating, and construction, Pokorny was uniquely qualified when both Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield sought to hire a full time electrical inspector.

In late spring 2001, Pokorny chose Marshfield as his full-time residence and hasn’t regretted that decision.

“I actually had a choice between three municipalities, as Plover also offered me a full time position. Hands down my vote was for Marshfield,” said Pokorny. “I have not regretted that choice ever. People really get behind ideas and projects that are important to all.”

Pokorny also enjoys the friendly nature of the people associated with what he calls a “wonderful city.”

A typical week as a building inspector in Marshfield involves a lot of emails, phone calls, and meetings.

“We work with the Fire and Police Departments over issues with buildings or owners. We work with other departments of the City to handle their needs. We provide plan reviews for projects in the city that need a permit,” explained Pokorny. “There are many other tasks we do, including nuisance and tenant complaints.”

Last but not least, Pokorny is in charge of inspections.

“These take a good deal of time, as installers and owners have many questions,” he said. “We have to squeeze these in amongst the rest of what we do.”

Though some see him as harsh or strict, Pokorny always enforces code with safety as the top priority.

“It is a balancing act to try to stick to the rules and make people follow them, and then trying to fit the rules to each and every situation,” said Pokorny. “People complain about the ‘gray areas’ of codes, but they are necessary so that there is some wiggle room as it is impossible for code rules to fit every single set circumstance.”

“Every single day we inspectors balance the exact wording of the many codes with each situation,” he added. “If nothing totally fits, we City of Marshfield inspectors use our vast experience as people who ‘came out of the trades’. As inspectors we also have seen many times more installations than most installers. If needed, we try to help the people involved come up with a different solution that still provides the same amount of safety – which is the code’s primary focus.”

As someone who has always treated inspections as way of teaching “the why” of what the rules are all about, Pokorny knows that hearing the real safety reason for a requirement goes a long ways to helping unhappy people understand or at least come to terms with requirements.

“Safety is a priority in the building trades, and also at work and at home,” he said. “Some rules seem stupid, but these rules are not created out of air. Regular people provide direct input into the rulemaking process of each document adopted by the State of Wisconsin. These changes are completed on a transparent consensus basis.”

He added that anyone with suggestions for changing a rule is welcome to propose an adjustment to the State.

“Anyone, and I mean even you and I, can propose a new rule or a change to an existing rule,” he said. “You do have to provide substantiation as to why your version is needed. All proposals submitted will be reviewed by real people. They will forward it through the process if the proposal has any merits.”

Though Pokorny won’t miss the stress involved with rule enforcement, he will miss the many different people with whom he has worked.

“These folks include: designers, tradesmen, business owners, City staff and most of the owners of the many houses and buildings that I have had the pleasure of working hand in hand with,” he said. “It seems like a zillion people know me around here. I can’t go anywhere without people saying ‘Hello, Dick! How are you?’ – even when shopping, or out to eat.”

Pokorny hopes to spend his retirement fishing, fishing, and…fishing.

Pokorny and his salmon catch.
Pokorny and his salmon catch.

“It would be nice to stay at a place where I do not have to come back when the fish are biting,” he said. “Besides fishing, I want to volunteer more to help local organizations. I have at least a few that have hinted at using my help if I ever retire.”

Pokorny is also looking forward to being able to travel a bit more and spend time with his daughters and grandchildren.

“This may sound kind of cheesy, but I want to flow along with life and see what it all will bring,” he said. “Last but not least, did I mention fishing?”

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