CANNON BEACH — Alton Butler, Cannon Beach’s new, full-time building inspector, knows what it takes to get something built.
Between his early years as a logger, 25 years as an engineer in the National Guard and about 20 years as a building inspector, Butler knows materials, design and regulations.
Butler started earlier this month as building inspector, a position that enforces building codes for safety and compliance on any new construction in Cannon Beach. Before this year, the city contracted with Bob Mitchell, the inspector for Seaside, to do this job.
“After my tour as a Marine, I entered in the engineering unit in the National Guard and found I had an interest in meeting people and keeping buildings safe,” Butler said.
Born and raised in Grand Ronde, where he is a tribal member, Butler moved to Sheridan to work as a logger. In 2000, he was laid off and attended Chemeketa Community College under the federal dislocated timber workers program to get certified as a building inspector.
Since then, Butler has worked as an inspector at Mount St. Helens, Lincoln City, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and McMinnville before retiring. But the opportunity in Cannon Beach made him reconsider, he said.
“It’s a good place to retire,” Butler said. “It’s my dream job to do this on the coast. It’s a nice community — a good way to finish my career.”
While Butler has a good number of code-enforcing years under his belt, some aspects of working on the coast have a learning curve. Some, like compromising with contractors with building plans, can be found anywhere. Living by the ocean means learning a whole new set of flood-plain, tsunami-inundation zone and vacation-rental codes.
But knowing the codes is only half the job, he said.
“Doing public relations is half my job. Being approachable and being respectful of all people are strengths in this job,” he said.
City Planner Mark Barnes said Butler’s approachable nature and his experience make him an asset to the city.
“He’s very knowledgeable, and he knows how to talk to people,” Barnes said.
When Butler isn’t enforcing building codes, he said he likes to official high school basketball, baseball and football, as well as work on refurbishing a 100-year-old barn back in Sheridan.
“I’m just glad to be here. I feel welcomed,” Butler said.