More than 16 years after Chris Tehan first came to work in the Shelter Island Building Department, he has opted to retire, deciding it’s time to pursue other interests and do some long-delayed world travel with his wife Joan.
He brought a lot of construction experience to his role as a building inspector. He began working in the field back around 1980, and worked in shops in New York City before moving to the Island where he worked for many builders.
Mr. Tehan is leaving this month at a time when he believes the Building Department is in good hands
“I know that the remaining crew will be able to keep the office on the right track,” Mr. Tehan said. “Obviously changes will happen, and some new people will be coming to work soon, but I am confident that it will work out just fine,” he said as he works in his final days to wrap up open issues.
Reed Karen, Brett Poleshuk and Mary Ellen McGayhey will be carrying on the work in the office while a new permits examiner will be replacing Lori Beard Raymond, who tendered her resignation this month. Mr. Poleshuk was hired as a part-timer last year with the understanding he would get a full-time job with the Building Department when an opening occurred.
The Town Board has now tapped Mr. Poleshuk for a full-time building inspector’s job.
The team has been doing great work every day taking on ongoing lists of responsibilities, Mr. Tehan said.
His advice to the team is simple: “Keep your head down and take it one job at a time.” He advises those he leaves behind to keep their minds open and try to see other people’s points of view and “always realize there is more than one way to skin a cat.”
There will be uncomfortable times, but “take your time and ask others for their opinion [and] most issues can be worked out to the satisfaction of all parties,” Mr. Tehan said. “Of course there will always be those that think you are just being mean, but in the end, you have to do the right thing to make it right and safe.”
Through the years, the job has become more complex, Mr. Tehan said. There are more agencies setting regulations and unfunded mandates, which municipalities must comply, he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, various Suffolk County and New York State departments setting regulations and more applicants seeking approvals for increasingly larger and more complex projects all need approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Board and Town Board.
People have become more litigious, making attention to detail more critical than ever, he said.
“I have tried to do my job fairly, and I have tried to treat people as I would like them to treat me,” Mr. Tehan said.
What would he change about the job if he could make it happen?
Assigning code enforcement to a nonresident should be a priority, he replied. It’s difficult to have to discuss compliance with a friend or neighbor, Mr. Tehan said.
“You sort of have to detach yourself from a relationship in order to gain compliance, and sometimes it can get uncomfortable, so you have to walk a fine line,” he said.
There would be less of a chance the code enforcement officer would have a personal interest or have a social connection to a property owner, Mr. Tehan added.
Besides seeing a bit more of the wider world, what are his plans? He admitted there are some projects on a to-do list he needs to tackle around his own house. But he said his plans change day to day. Still, he expects to be working on the Island.
“My happy place is in the construction world,” he said “I still enjoy following the progress of building from start to finish. Sometimes seeing a job through to completion and how happy people are with their new house/renovation can make my day.”