Generations
Jeff Whitney
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Nov 28, 2013 | 933 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeff Whitney
Jeff Whitney
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In the 25 years that he’s worked as the Grand County building inspector, Jeff Whitney has learned a lot. He’s served on both state and national boards to help develop better building codes, and he’s become a true believer in the codes that govern building in the United States.

“It can seem arbitrary to contractors, but after you get briefed on a national scale, it’s hard to back off and ignore it here at home,” he said.

Yet, despite all of Whitney’s accomplishments in his professional life, he is most proud of his family.

Whitney first came to Moab when he was 6 months old. His father was a uranium worker, and Whitney spent most of his childhood in the Moab area.

“This was the most awesome place to grow up,” Whitney said. “We were always up at Power Dam or Lefthand [Canyon]. Every Saturday, we climbed Moab Rim, usually in our bare feet, and I’ve skinny dipped in every pothole in Grand County.”

Whitney began dating his wife when he was a sophomore in high school. Trudine was the daughter of Whitney’s science teacher, and the sister of one of his good friends. Whitney spent a great deal of time with the family and eventually, he and Trudine became close.

Even when Whitney’s family moved to Salt Lake City, where he completed high school, the two remained a couple.

“We dated mostly through the mail,” Whitney said.

During the summers, Whitney would come back to Moab and work on a construction crew with Trudine’s dad.

Two weeks after he graduated from high school, Whitney returned to Moab and he and Trudine were married. Then he joined the military, where he specialized in crown and bridge work. During that time, the couple’s first of five kids were born.

When he returned to Moab, the young family moved to Castle Valley.

“She wanted to move out of Moab, but there was no way I was leaving home,” Whitney said.

They bought a plot of land in Castle Valley for $5,000 and put a mobile home on it, where they lived while Whitney built the family a home.

Life in Castle Valley wasn’t easy, he said.

“There were about 12 families out there,” Whitney said. “There was no running water or electricity.”

Shortly after the move, the couple welcomed their third child.

“It was a real struggle,” Whitney said. “I put my car into the river the first month we were out there, so I was hitchhiking in and out of town, hoping I’d get home before dark so I could kill a rabbit so we could have meat with our dinner.”

The young couple struggled while Whitney was building the house.

“I bought a couple of boards a paycheck,” he said. “Whatever we could afford.”

During the construction, the couple had two more children.

At one point, the family pitched tents in the kids’ bedrooms so they would have somewhere to sleep until the house was finished.

“Jeff Stucki helped me get a roof on, and we got the windows covered before winter,” Whitney said.

Despite the hard times, Whitney is glad they were able to build their home the way they did.

“It’s sad that people can’t [build homes like] that anymore,” he said. “In a way, the system we have keeps kids from being able to do that.”

Eventually, Whitney was offered the job as the building inspector for Grand County. He recently finished a stint on the board of the National Board of the International Code Council He’s traveled to Washington D.C., where he’s met with senators and congressmen.

“It’s been real eye-opening and entertaining to see how things work on a national level,” he said.

Whitney’s sixth child joined the family by chance. His daughter was a senior in high school when a woman asked her to watch her baby. Whitney’s daughter agreed, and she brought the baby home.

“Over the next few months, we had him more often than we didn’t,” Whitney said.

When the state decided to remove the child from his home, they contacted Whitney and suggested he and Trudine file the paperwork to be foster parents.

“Over the next few years, they rotated a lot of kids through our house, but he was the one constant,” Whitney said. When the boy was 5, the Whitneys officially adopted him. He’s 21 now.

Whitney and Trudine have been married for 42 years.

“I tell everybody else what to do, and she tells me what to do. That’s the deal,” Whitney said.

He stays busy with work and developing his line of cutting horses, but his family, including his 14 grandchildren, remains the most important part of his life.

“My family is my big pleasure,” Whitney said. “Most families, the kids can’t wait to get away and never come back. Mine couldn’t wait to get away, but they love to come home.”

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