Kearney native swaps bulls for buildings

Kearney native Colton Michael has gone from being a professional bull rider to Kearney’s building inspector.

KEARNEY — After working off and on in construction in various capacities, including a recent stint in heating and cooling, Kearney’s Colton Michael is now the city’s building inspector.

“I worked in heating and cooling for several years. I used to build decks with my dad on the side, build basements and garages, things like that here and there,” he said. “I heard there was an opening at the city and was working for Shanks Heating and Cooling, but I was raised here in Kearney and really liked the idea of giving back to the community that I grew up in.”

As a building inspector, Michael works to ensure structures like new homes and businesses in the city are built to city code, including fire code, making them safe for people who occupy them.

Would 10-year-old you be surprised that you are in this field or position?

“Probably because 10-year-old me either wanted to be a veterinarian or a professional bull rider,” Michael said. Becoming a bull rider is exactly what he did. Before becoming the city’s inspector in April, Michael was known to be found on the back of a bucking bull, participating in rodeos across the region including the annual Kearney Chamber of Commerce’s annual ride.

While riding bulls is exciting, Michael said it’s dangerous work and he’s happy to work for the city.

“Better job security,” he said with a laugh.

What would surprise people most to learn about your job?

“That I have to inspect a lot of decks. People don’t think that they have to have a permit to do a deck or that it needs to be safety inspected,” the building inspector said. “I also deal with fire safety.”

What is the most rewarding aspect of your position or this field in particular?

“Being able to tell a homeowner that their house is safe to live in and that they have a brand new house to go home to,” Michael said.

Outside of the workplace, when you meet somebody new, what tips you off that someone is another building inspector?

I don’t think so. I know a lot of people pay attention to the structure of a building, but those guys are usually either builders or architects or something like that. Building inspectors are kind of rare. I’ve only ever met probably two or three building inspectors. They would have to tell me they were building inspectors also,” he said.

What’s the most common question you get asked about what you do?

“I guess it would be people asking what I actually do. My answer is, ‘I just make sure a building is safe,’” he said.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

“Telling these older guys who have been in the business of construction longer than I’ve been alive how to do their jobs,” Michael said. “Things change over years and years and so they have to do things differently.”

What advice would you give someone who is starting a job similar to yours?

“Don’t be afraid to tell people to change the way they are doing things if it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “... I’m not trying to be the bad guy, I’m trying to make sure everybody is safe.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at or 903-6001.

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