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City taps McKnight as code compliance officer

Meghan McKnight -
Meghan McKnight
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Planning officials credit her with a deep knowledge of city codes, regulations.

As the city’s new code enforcement officer, Meghan McKnight must fill shoes deeply scuffed by her predecessor.

But don’t expect McKnight, an island native who has worked for six years in the city’s planning and finance departments, to tread anywhere but the straight and narrow, say city officials and staff.

“This is a new era,” said Planning Director Larry Frazier, who oversees the code enforcer’s role, which includes responding to complaints and gaining compliance from violators of the city’s municipal codes.

“What happened before has nothing to do with this person. You can’t paint (McKnight) with the same brush. Period.”

McKnight takes over the post last held by Will Peddy, who was fired in November after a seven-week investigation showed that he lied on his resume.

“This is a sensitive place to be in, especially in light of how the previous officer left,” said McKnight, who is still temporarily filling her previous position as planning permit technician.

After Peddy’s firing, building official Mark Hinkley served as interim code enforcement officer until McKnight was promoted this month.

McKnight, 26, previously worked as an office specialist in the finance and planning departments before assuming the role as the planning department’s permit technician.

She was born and raised on the island and attended some classes at Olympic College in Bremerton. She now owns a home on the north end, where she raises her 7-year-old son.

Her mother, Kathleen McKnight, has worked in the city finance and information technology departments since 1988.

Meghan McKnight said she understands that she may come under some scrutiny from residents still sore after the Peddy incident.

“I welcome people to come and meet me and I’m happy to listen to people,” she said. “A lot of people know me here. They know I’ve worked for the city for six years, that I live here and that I raise my son here.”

McKnight was chosen from about 10 candidates by City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs, Frazier and a two-member citizen review panel. The city also applied a more stringent method of fact-checking resumes to avoid earlier mishaps.

McKnight’s familiarity with city rules and regulations gave her an edge over the competition.

“She’s young, ambitious and smart,” said Frazier. “She really sold herself and had a great interview. She knows the city’s code about as well as anybody else here.”

McKnight knows it so well, in fact, that she’s often subjected to what she calls “drive-through planning.”

“I’ll be walking to the gym and the guy from ReMax will roll down his window and ask me planning questions,” she said with a laugh.

McKnight said she pursued the code officer position because of “all the positive it can do,” she said.

“It’s a good role for public outreach,” she said. “Most who aren’t in compliance didn’t really know about the regulations in place. It’s not about dropping the hammer and more about doing the outreach and educating people about what the regulations are.”

This role, she said, will be well served by her familiarity with the community.

“I know the people in the city but I also know people outside the walls of City Hall,” she said.

McKnight inherits a position that has undergone significant changes recently, including new oversight by a middle-management supervisor and more focus on planning and environmental issues rather than building structures.

The changes have already made a difference, according to Mayor Darlene Kordonowy.

“We’ve learned a lot in the past year from the person we had before,” she said. “(Code enforcement) reporting is more regular and there’s more accountability.”

The code enforcement position now works less independently and no longer has as much authority to interpret code without consultation with supervisors.

“I knew enforcement was problematic,” said Kordonowy. “Now it’s better managed with more of a paper trail.”

Kordonowy also expressed confidence in McKnight’s qualifications and stressed that she stands far beyond Peddy’s shadow.

Questions arose about Peddy’s background during his unsuccessful bid for mayor when resumes he circulated to the local press contained inaccuracies, including claims that he held a degree in biology from the University of California.

Doubts were also raised about Peddy’s work history and volunteer experience. Some civic involvement listed in his resume was refuted by the organizations with which he claimed to have relationships.

Most of Peddy’s resume inaccuracies were exposed just days before the September primary election, in which Peddy received 12 percent of the vote to finish third.

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