When Bob Waite came to work at the Aberdeen Building Department 35 years ago, there were no computers, just what he calls Stone Age technology to go through the permitting process. He is set to retire March 28. “It’s been a great place to work. I am going to miss all the people I have worked with.” The 1966 Aberdeen High School graduate went into the Army for two years and spent a year in Vietnam. He attended college at Grays Harbor and Contra Costa colleges. He lived in the Bay Area for several years, then returned to the Harbor to work for the department in 1979. He rose to head the department. Waite has two sons by his first marriage: Morgan, 37, who works for Grays Harbor PUD, and Brian, 40, who works for Asplund Tree Service and lives in both Totten Inlet and Laguna Beach, Calif. He and his second wife, Kathy, have been married 19 years and have six grandchildren between them. His father, Jack, who is in his 90s, still lives in Aberdeen.
For those who don’t know, please describe what the building department does.
The building department checks plans for various code requirements, coordinates with other departments, issues permits and answers questions relating to various codes adopted by the jurisdiction. We inspect projects to ensure that life and safety requirements are met. It is important for people to ask any questions they may have before they start a project or during a project. Keeping the communication between builder and inspector going during the project is important.
You have been with the Building Department for more than 30 years. What are the biggest changes you have seen on the job over the decades?
The codes are updated every three years, so a lot of changes have taken place. However, for the most part people adapt to the changes. The most frustrating thing is the unfunded mandates the state and federal government require jurisdictions to enforce. Most individuals think these are local government requirements when in fact they are pasted through from the state and federal government. These unfunded mandates can take up more of our time than inspecting for various codes.
Aberdeen has been economically challenged for many years. What is the biggest challenge in protecting a city’s heritage while tearing down derelict buildings?
Probably to make people aware that routine maintenance of a building is the most important item for its longevity. The city does not want to force buildings to be demolished but at some point we are left with no option.
What project sparked the most pride in your work?
There were many projects that gave me pride in being involved with. Probably the new Aberdeen High School would top the list. It was such a shock to the entire community when the J. M. Weatherwax building burnt and there was the long process to rebuild the new high school.
Looking back at when I was going to high school there, we went through somewhat the same relocation with the building of the Phillips building and remodeling of the other buildings. I can relate to some of the hardship for the students and faculty.
What project was the hardest to deal with?
In general, the hardest projects are the ones where homeowners attempt to do it themselves. Those projects can sometimes take longer and more time involvement on the city’s part as well.
The Morck Hotel was red-tagged last year. Please explain what red-tagging means and how often it is used. How can building sanctions help improve derelict conditions?
A project is red-tagged if a permit has not been issued for work that has started. In most cases, we try to have someone obtain a permit prior to a red tag being issued. Derelict buildings are addressed through an abatement process to either have the building repaired or demolished. Once again, routine maintenance of a building is important for a long lasting building.
What advice do you give to your successor and future building departments in Aberdeen?
Try to work with the builder because everyone has a common goal to achieve completion of the project on time.
Your father is in his 90s and lives here. You were raised here and have family near and far — what does your family and growing up here mean to you?
During my time of growing up in Aberdeen, there was a lot of pride in the neighborhoods and community. Being close to the ocean beaches, rivers and mountains made for an outdoor paradise. Family camping, boating , hunting and fishing made for a lot of great memories.
You served in Vietnam, what did that experience teach you?
As a 20-year-old entering a war zone, it meant growing up quickly. I had to take responsibility for myself and others around me. We had to communicate and work together, which became a great stepping stone for life in general.
On retirement, you are going to explore and travel in your RV with your wife. Where and who would you like to visit, living or dead, on the road?
My wife and I plan on traveling mainly around the West Coast states. There is so much of the area that we have not seen yet. I would like to revisit Washington, D.C. There is so much history of our country in the surrounding area. I would have liked to have met President John F. Kennedy. He seemed to be a great president who unfortunately had his life taken at such an early age.