There’s a new officer in town, but instead of packing a Smith and Wesson, city employee Anita Ruga relies on the old Sears department store marketing slogan, paraphrased as “the softer side.” That’s because even though her official title is “ordinance enforcement officer,” her role is far from being an authoritarian figurehead for the CIty. She serves primarily as an advocate for safety, working with Hermann’s contingency of guest house and bed and breakfast (B&B) owners, but her duties also encompass compliance in zoning and property maintenance, conditional use permits checklist items, handling Landmark Commission Letters of Appropriateness, building permits and property maintenance code complaints.
The need for an ordinance enforcement officer position has been discussed in several Board of Alderman meetings, because of the Aldermen’s move to amend the Hermann Municipal Code pertaining to hospitality businesses. This requires the current ordinance to state “B&B inns and guest houses shall be allowed in the R-2 and R-3 zoning districts by conditional use permit only and to establish regulations for all new and existing B&B inns and guest houses in all zoning districts.”
These regulations pertain primarily to safety features for guests (many pertain to the Mo. Fire Code), occupancy, street parking and permitting.
It is this new focus on visitor safety and compliance that necessitated the new position.
City Administrator Mark Wallace says there was a disconnect between the duties of various city departments and the balance of time involved to handle old and new code compliance with those regular duties.
“She (Anita) will report to me,” said the city administrator, “and then I’ll report to the police or send a letter—whatever is needed.”
While the current proposed amendment to the Municipal Code was the driver for the new enforcement position, there is also a move to clean up some neighborhoods in town and having someone with the time and authority to enforce nuisance ordinances is another plus, according to Wallace.
“The advantage to having Anita [in this position], is she’s been working with the City Court a for long time,” says Wallace. “She knows how the Court works, she knows our City ordinances, she knows the people, such as the Hermann PD and how they work with the Court. She’s well qualified to do this properly—not showing any favoritism, she’ll go by the Code, so I know she’ll be really good at this job.”
Once Anita starts her new job responsibilities after the first of the New Year, she will be visiting with guest house and B&B owners. She doesn’t expect confrontations, and instead of heavy-handed enforcement reporting to authorities, she would prefer to talk about possible code infractions with the owner(s), neighbor-to-neighbor. She sees her job as building relationships and goodwill among the hospitality proprietors and City residents.
Anita will continue to spend roughly half her time devoted to her duties as deputy city clerk, helping City Clerk Patricia Heaney. She has been serving as municipal court clerk, but those responsibilities will eventually be shifted to the Gasconade County Circuit Court. She currently works three or four days a week for the City, depending on the work load.
“It will be about two days per week devoted to this [new] position and one day devoted to the deputy city clerk position,” she said.
Anita looks forward to meeting and working with the hospitality business owners.
“We just want the people that are coming here to know they’re coming to a beautiful and safe environment.”
She doesn’t see any problems—she knows those business owners want the same for their guests.