Danville builder named to top state post

May 13, 2004|HERB BROCK

Veteran Danville builder Van Cook has been named executive director of the state Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction.

Cook started his new job in Frankfort on Wednesday. The office he oversees is in the Department of Public Protection in the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. The cabinet secretary is Danville native Lajuana Wilcher.

Cook, who is a non-merit state employee, recently sold his interest in Danville-based Van Cook Construction Co. to his partner Winston Preston of Harrodsburg. He said he had applied for the position.

With his appointment, Cook became the third Danvillian named to a top post in the Fletcher administration. He joins Mardi Montgomery, who is deputy secretary of the Education Cabinet, and Basil Turbyfill, who is deputy secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet.


The Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction is the state agency that administers programs and inspections related to building code enforcement, electrical wiring, fire prevention, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and plumbing pertaining to the construction of new buildings and alterations to existing buildings.

Cook's 203-member staff includes the state fire marshal and state building, plumbing, electrical, elevator and boiler inspectors. In addition, the office oversees construction and inspections of mobile homes and other manufactured housing.

A major duty of the office is to enforce the two state building codes and oversee any reviews and implement any changes in those codes.

In an interview Wednesday night, Cook said his goals include streamlining as many functions of his office as possible to "ensure that inspections are done as promptly as possible" to enable builders to complete their projects in a timely fashion.

He also wants to encourage state lawmakers to enact legislation to enforce the state's two building codes statewide and to require the licensing or registration of home builders and general contractors.

"Plumbers, electricians and just about everyone else involved in the construction of a building is licensed or registered - everyone except the main guy, the builder," Cook said. He said in order to do construction in Florida, one of several states in which his company had done projects, he had to get a builder's license.

Cook, 58, had been principal owner of Van Cook Construction Co. from 1974 until his recent resignation. His company focused on home construction in its early years but has concentrated on commercial construction over the last several years.

From 1968 to 1974, he served as a project design engineer for NASA's Kennedy Space Center where he designed and oversaw the manufacture of launch support systems for the Saturn V rocket and the space shuttle.

Cook is a life director of the Home Builders of Kentucky, having served as president in 1995, and a life director of the National Association of Home Builders. He was named state Home Builder of the Year in 1996. He also has been a member of the Associated General Contractors Workers' Compensation Board.

In addition, Cook was longtime chairman of the Boyle County Fire Protection District board in the 1980s and 1990s and served as chairman of the five-county Selective Service Board in the 1970s. He is a 1964 graduate of Danville High School and a 1968 graduate of the University of Kentucky, where he majored in mechanical engineering.

He and his wife, Edna Cook, live on Gentry Lane in Boyle County. His son, Ashley, lives and works in Colorado.

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