This week’s profile features Mike Fontaine, the Mineral County building inspector. Born and raised in eastern Texas, Fontaine eventually joined the Navy for a six-year enlistment as a cook. He spent his last two years at Fallon Naval Air Station where he fell in love with Nevada.
“I tried to leave the state a few times, but I love this state, and I continued to move back here,” Fontaine said.
After mustering out of the Navy in 1976 Fontaine started doing construction work with the Army Corp of Engineers. He built dams in Oklahoma before venturing back to Texas where he worked on high-rises, power plants and other projects. Fontaine eventually moved to Reno and worked as a resident engineer, construction inspector and related endeavors.
In 1998 Fontaine came to Hawthorne to begin work on a Highway 359 project. “I just looked at this area and fell in love with it. I thought about what a great place Hawthorne would be to retire,” Fontaine said. His chance came sometime later.
He moved to Hawthorne three years ago this coming August. Fontaine did not move to Hawthorne to become the county building inspector or resume his construction career. He had a different sort of building in mind.
Fontaine is a Southern Baptist pastor and he moved to Hawthorne to pastor the Southern Baptist Church, which is conveniently located across the street from his office.
“I’m a bi-vocational pastor and I need to work for a living. When this job came up I put in for it because I like to see things built to last. I like to see people are safe and I like to see things done well,” Fontaine said.
Although he does not foresee a conflict, if forced to choose between his two vocations, Fontaine’s heart lies in the pastorate. “I would have to follow my calling as a pastor in the church, rather than my profession as a building inspector and building official,” he said
“I was called by God down here to serve this church; I was led by God to serve this community,” Fontaine said.
Other than a few community college classes and some certification programs, Fontaine is completely self-educated in construction. “I’m just a regular person who worked his way up,” he said with a smile.
One of Fontaine’s greatest job challenges is communicating to people the requirements of the codes, the needs of the community and upholding the laws of the state. “I am bound and restricted by those laws, as well as the laws of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Fontaine said. He is also a certified floodplain manager and a member of the International Code Council, and that places additional requirements on Fontaine.
Included among the rewards of the job is the satisfaction of knowing things get done properly. “It’s rewarding just knowing that I have helped someone and made sure that no one was hurt financially or physically, along with just talking with the people of the community. We have some of the best and most down-to-earth Nevadans here in Mineral County,” Fontaine said.
Fontaine answers to the county commissioners for his job performance. “I serve the community at the pleasure of the county commissioners and the district attorney,” Fontaine said.
Along with inspecting buildings and managing floodplains, Fontaine also inspects sewer systems and handles nuisance complaints and zoning violations. “Building inspector covers a wide area,” Fontaine said.
Fontaine hopes to leave a legacy of honesty when he retires. “Forty years ago, when I started my inspector training, a boss looked at me and said, ‘Mike, I can teach a monkey to do this job, but I can’t make a man honest,’ and that really struck me. This is an office of integrity. Everyone here is treated equally.” Fontaine concluded
“I was called by God down here to serve this church; I was led by God to serve this community,” he said.