You might think a city inspector would have all the answers, but codes and compliance rules were written long ago by folks who don’t live in hurricane areas. And like a lot of Bridge City residents, Clarence Philpott is living in a FEMA trailer.

On normal days before Ike, the 48-year-old helped out with drainage, inspected a few homes or answered complaints about street signs.

He jokes, “I’ll take a Rita any day.”

The Ike problem, of course, was the flooding, and his job and life changed.

“Now everything is dealing with construction, like at Market Basket,” he says. “That’s a major remodel job there. Electrical and everything else. I spend more time working out electrical bugs than before.”

Philpott still deals with homeowners, but on a larger scale, and has to make sure contractors are reputable, licensed and bonded. He’s been with the city 30 years, 17 of those as inspector.

“There are so many codes, and it takes you a few years to learn them all,” he says. “If I was just starting out [after Ike], yes, yes it would be a very different story.”

The talk in Bridge City of late has been FEMA trailers, and when they will have to be sent back. The rule, Philpott says, is they must be returned 18 months from initial arrival.

“A lot of people want to relocate to Jasper, or Beaumont,” he says. “But they’re like me; they’ve got kids in school already, and their jobs are here.

“A lot of people I talk to [about codes etc.] on the phone are out of state, and they have no idea what’s going on here. One lady said it was snowing where she was at, and I was like, ‘This is Southeast Texas.’”

Philpott was born in Port Arthur and attended Stephen F. Austin High. He always went out for a lot of sports, football and track, among others. While his brother Mark always saw himself in a law enforcement career, Clarence was drawn to construction work.
(Mark Philpott was recently elected Precinct 3 constable).

“I enjoy the work, and I like to work with the people here,” Clarence says.

“I started when C.R. Nash was [city manager] here. I think the biggest thing we had then was Wal-Mart. But the town has grown, and Bridge City was booming before the storm. We’re going to get back to that, it’s just going to take time.”

Clarence, the son of Jane Hebert and the late Arthur Philpott, is married to Lori, a manager at Wal-Mart. The couple have two boys, Montana, 12, and Dakota, 13.