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UNF alums recognized by Jacksonville Mayor

Whether you’re planning on building a new home or adding to your existing one, you’ll need to apply for a building permit, and the City of Jacksonville has just made it easier than ever, thanks to three UNF alumni  — and their manager, working in the city’s Information Technologies Division.
The new system — Jax Enterprise Permitting Inspections and Compliance System (Jax EPICS) was introduced last month by Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, and it promises to be an easier process for contractors and others to apply for permits.
Pictured left to right: UNF alums John Tyler, Ryan Rukab and Jason Swinehart. Photo credit: Brad BiringerWhen announcing the new system, Deegan mentioned the work of the three alums, now city employees – Ryan Rukab, Jason Swinehart and John Tyler, who have degrees from UNF in Information Technology and Computer Science.
Charged with revamping the old cumbersome and tedious process to apply for building permits, the three developed an online portal that cuts the permit approval wait times by at least 10 days and improves productivity and efficiency within the city’s building and planning department. 
“The old site wasn’t user-friendly or easy to navigate, even for longtime Jacksonville contractors,” said Rukab, senior software developer and the lead person on the project. It was difficult to add new functionality when needed. Now, the new software allows us to add new technology on demand, provides more functionality and it’s easier to use.”
The old process of submitting a permit took approximately 30 days or longer for approval. The new system shortens the approval time and allows contractors to track their applications throughout the process, reducing communications between contractors and staff.
Chris Callahan, manager of the Jax EPICS team, said the new software will provide more functionality, visibility and connectivity throughout the permitting process for external users and city employees.
“This new system improves the productivity of city employees by reducing manual communications between the public and staff and having to use multiple applications to see the complete permitting review process,” Callahan said. This results in cost savings for the city as well as the customer since ‘time is money’ with their construction projects.”
Like Rukab, UNF alums Jason Swinehart and John Tyler, also developers, said drawing on their time at UNF and their courses proved to be valuable and gave them the confidence in their abilities to tackle such an important project.  
“I remembered a class I had on cybersecurity when I was developing the search function on the new site,” said Tyler. “That’s when it clicked that what I learned in class was beneficial in helping me do my job.” 
For Swinehart, it was math classes and algorithms. “I wouldn’t have studied them on my own,” he said. “But I see the value of them with my job and I’m glad I took the courses.”
Rukab graduated from UNF in 2019, Tyler in 2021 and Swinehart in 2021.  
Both Swinehart and Tyler said the twice-a-year UNF Career Fairs hosted by the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction were beneficial in helping them network with potential employers. 
“I met Ryan at the career fair and that’s when I learned the City of Jacksonville was hiring,” said Tyler. “I wouldn’t have thought to apply to the city if I didn’t attend the career fair.” 
Swinehart agreed. “I made a contact with the application development manager for the city at the career fair and accepted a position soon after.”
Callahan said that while a project of this size requires constant oversight to meet goals and follow the development plan, “each of them were eager to learn and worked tirelessly to bring their technical skillsets up while learning the ‘business rules’ side of permitting.”
“Before too long, they were each handling bigger coding sections on their own, in constant collaboration with each other to provide support and to help out each other,” he continued. 
“We very much trust their capabilities and refer to them as our ‘rock stars.’” Callahan said.
Pictured left to right: John Tyler, Ryan Rukab and Jason Swinehart. Photo credit: Brad Biringer