Person of the Week
Building Resources in Clinton and Beyond
With a career in the building trades since age 16, Richard Pleines is bringing his experience to Clinton as the town’s new building inspector. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News)
With skills earned as a local contractor and an appreciation for working with people, Richard Pleines has signed on as the new building official in Clinton.
Richard, a longtime Killingworth resident, has been the building official in that town for about two years. When he learned that former Clinton building official Ed Smith was set to retire, he says the Clinton job posting caught his eye.
“The Clinton job is a full-time position but the Killingworth one is part-time, so I like that,” Richard says.
Richard will remain Killingworth’s building official for another few weeks so that town can fill its vacancy.
Richard, who started his position in Clinton the week of July 20, laughs as he describes the role’s responsibilities.
“Our duty is everything!” Richard says.
In general, Richard meets not only with developers but also anyone else who might have questions about building plans. He reviews plans, makes sure the projects are code compliant, and answers questions.
“It’s a lot of public service. Some of it isn’t even technically our job but we still do it,” says Richard.
Richard took the classes to become a building inspector about five years ago, with the support of his wife Eileen Unger.
“She was a big help, she was a lot of support,” says Richard.
Eventually, Richard says he became the building official in Killingworth, where he worked for two years.
“It just seemed like a good fit,” says Richard.
Luckily for Richard, he has a wealth of building experience to help him in this role.
“I’ve been building since I was 16 years old,” Richard says.
Richard worked as a contractor for more than 30 years. Building is something that came to Richard at an early age, and he credits his father with the start.
“We grew up with it. My father was a school teacher so we were always learning how to do things ourselves. We were self-sufficient,” says Richard.
Richard says he has worked on a variety of projects both big and small. One area he enjoys is making sure buildings are complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and accessible to people who are differently abled.
“I liked when I did work to help with people who have special needs,” Richard says.
He says his background as a contractor helps will be beneficial in his new job. “It’s very helpful. You know what these guys are going through so you can help them out,” Richard says.
Right now, Richard says many contractors are currently struggling with shortages of materials, high prices for those materials, and other issues related to the supply chain.
“These guy can’t wait to get going and once one part of a project falls behind, the rest falls behind, too,” Richard says.
When asked about his favorite part of being a building official, Richard is quick to answer.
“I like the people,” he says, “pointing them in the right direction.”
During the pandemic, even though many people had to work remotely, Richard still found a way to get the job done.
“I went and looked at every inspection personally last year. We could still work from home with our phones and computers, so we got through,” says Richard.
As for the hardest part of being a building inspector, Richard says he sometimes needs to tell people they’re not allowed to do what they want to do.
“You need to tell them they’re wrong in a nice way. For the most part, people are good. I always say we don’t make the codes, we just enforce it,” says Richard.
Clinton has several big construction jobs and developments underway.
Richard says he’s already met with the architects of the Big Y coming to Clinton and says he’s excited about the ongoing work.
“I’ve really done so much work and they’re all equally important to me—whether it’s a big project or a small one they’re all important to someone,” he says.
“The office staff is fantastic and everyone has been very helpful,” Richard adds, and as for the public, “People are always welcome to call the office anytime to ask questions. I don’t ever want anyone afraid to come in.”
As a longtime resident of the area, Richard says, “I like the shoreline, I’ve always liked it.” Richard keeps active sailing, scuba diving fishing, working on his farm, and helping his wife with her micro bakery, The Bread Girl in Killingworth.
“She’s my biggest supporter,” Richard says.