Steve Hughes has gone national. That’s right, Pawhuska’s code-enforcement officer — the one that his fellow Oklahoma code enforcement officers cited back in March as their officer of the year — is now the national code-enforcement officer of the year for 2019.


Hughes received the award when he recently attended the annual conference of the American Association of Code Enforcement in Bloomington, Minnesota. Hughes admits he wondered how he ended up with the award and asked something like, “I’m grateful, but why me?”


“They’re kind of tight-lipped, but they claimed I had three or four nominators,” Hughes said of his conversataions with the national association about the award. He commented that he thinks he probably got credit for being proactive in his code-enforcement habits — reaching out to the public to try to solve a problem or potential problem, rather than waiting on things to snowball.


“Some people might even call me aggressively proactive,” Hughes said. He immediately shared credit for the award with fellow city employees, commenting in regard to Utilities Director Bill Bruce, “I couldn’t do half of what I do without him.”


Hughes explained that he sees his job in terms of helping to improve the overall condition and appearance of property in the city, so that economic-development efforts are more likely to succeed and the standard of living is more likely to rise than to fall.


“We have a tourist attraction, so we have to be aggressively proactive so it doesn’t die,” Hughes said. The taxpayers of Pawhuska should have no fear, either, that Hughes went to Minnesota just to receive an award and have a good time. There were plenty of professional development classes to attend all day, every day, he said. That means he was exposed to more people and ideas in the broader world of code enforcement.


“I’m just one spoke in a wheel,” Hughes said, emphasizing he operates as a member of a team of city employees, all of whom have essential contributions to make to the well-being of the community.