Men & Women That Make AZ Cities Work

Jim Dawson

Senior Plans Examiner
City of Chandler Planning and Development Department


None of us enjoyed getting our homework returned by the teacher tattooed with red ink, but sometimes it was warranted.  This scenario is repeated numerous times in the adult world of construction plan review and Jim Dawson is the guy wielding the red pen.

As a building plans examiner, Jim pours over the construction plans of developers and builders to ensure they are designed in accordance with the International Building Code, fire code, mechanical code, plumbing code, energy conservation code, National Electric Code, residential code, and the accessibility design access guidelines that developed out of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Builders sometimes take issue with corrections being requested, but Jim’s grasp of the subject matter and reasoned demeanor usually wins out. And sometimes Jim doesn’t have to say a word, like the time a design consultant was upset with several ADA requirements and insisted on meeting personally with Jim. The consultant’s objections evaporated when Jim rolled his wheelchair into the lobby to greet him.

Jim has been paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair since 2001 following a fall he took while on vacation in Canada. With his injury has come limited mobility and a greater reliance on others, especially his wife of 34 years, Tina. He credits Tina with being his lifesaver and speaks of the many sacrifices she has made to keep him going.

Before the accident, Jim was an active outdoorsman and travelled frequently while holding numerous jobs both in the United States and Canada. He was born in Kingston, Ontario and grew up helping his father who was a plumbing contractor. He also worked as a carpenter and later became a building inspector and plan reviewer for an agency of the Canadian Government similar to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jim even spent a year as a building trades instructor in a Canadian penitentiary.  He shakes his head and smiles when recalling some of the crazy things he witnessed, including the time inmates were caught fermenting a concoction beneath some lockers in his office.

Other government jobs followed, including a high level job with Canada’s Department of Indian and Northern Affairs overseeing the infrastructure, housing and social service needs of numerous Indian communities in northern Alberta, Canada. He later owned his own construction company in his hometown of Kingston.

The appeal of warmer climates led Jim and his wife to Arizona in the mid-90’s where he held jobs with Scottsdale and Gilbert, went into the home inspection business, and even operated a restaurant and bar in Mesa. He joined Chandler nine years ago and says he’s grateful to be working alongside many wonderful coworkers.

And when asked about his life philosophy, Jim smiles and says, “I make a conscious mental decision each day to make it the best day I can possibly make it.”

Sounds like something we should all write down in big red letters.