Nearly three hours into a conversation — and 26 years on the job — the man who made stronger construction standards his crusade when he rewrote the Miami-Dade County building code after Hurricane Andrew remains filled with the fervor for reform.
Charlie Danger, the county building chief who is about to retire after a career that challenged builders and probably saved lives, is holding court behind his desk, leaning over to draw a diagram of broken street lights, expounding on his passion for protecting South Florida’s natural environment. (“The problem with politicians,” he says, “is they don’t listen to scientists.”)
He jokes about how much longer the Social Security Administration expects him to live — he’s 66, and the feds give him another 18 and a half years — and weeps at the memory of his late mother, Olga, who took her three sons out of Cuba and raised them on her own. He recounts with a certain glee the nasty letters he received from developers about the building code rewrite that took him to Tallahassee and endangered his job in 1996 when, as he says, “the you-know-what hit the fan.”
Charlie Danger is still an evangelist.
He preaches tolerance and compassion. He believes in a benevolent government, where dull regulations have the power for good and desk jockeys can make people’s problems go away.
When he retires Friday, County Hall will lose one of its last remaining old-school bureaucrats, the kind of undisputed expert who tells it like it is.
“We’ve been putting patches on problems for too many years,” he concludes. “The government should be proactive, should be progressive. We should take the bull by the horns and reinvent things.”