Patrick Arnold

Patrick Arnold, director of the Charleston Home Builders Association, visits a construction site for new homes in the Wescott area of North Charleston. Warren L. Wise/Staff

While in college, Patrick Arnold built houses in the morning, shuffled off to classes in the afternoon and then boiled mud bugs at night at a crawfish restaurant in Louisiana.

Now 33, the new director of the Charleston Home Builders Association has a more singular focus: develop the organization as a model for others to emulate and steer municipalities and counties to the same page with development regulations.

It's a tall order.

On the job for just over eight months, Arnold believes uniformity, as much as it is possible, would go a long way toward speeding up the construction process throughout the Charleston region.

The idea is in its infancy.

"My conversations with planning directors tell me they are receptive to the idea," Arnold said. "No municipality is going to be the same, but by getting together they can learn from one another about how to efficiently solve problems."

Describing himself as goal-oriented, he wants to see a resolution to some of the region's housing woes.

He said traffic and infrastructure strains are not caused by so many people moving to the Charleston region. He believes the area's housing affordability crisis and people's migration patterns of trying to get to work from places where they can afford to live are the culprits.

"I like to take a problem such as this and bring the right people together to solve it," Arnold said.

He doesn't know how long it will take, but the Louisiana native likes to see an issue through to the end.

That most likely means he won't be going anywhere anytime soon, since the problem of differing regulations in multiple jurisdictions could take years to bring to uniformity.

Charleston alone has different building standards for the peninsula and its bevy of historic buildings from those in West Ashley, noted Jacob Lindsey, the city's planning director.

And while different jurisdictions have different regulations on the construction process, Lindsey believes they have a lot in common.

"The review processes are not that far apart," he said.

Mount Pleasant's planning director called the goal "laudable" but probably not doable.

"If municipalities have different development requirements within the jurisdiction itself, achieving a standardized set of building regulations at a metropolitan scale would be next to impossible," said Jeff Ulma.

Summerville's planning director doesn't believe uniform regulations are feasible either.

"Since each jurisdiction is unique and has its own governing body, I personally do not think that you would be able to get all of the councils to agree on the same regulations," said Jessi Shuler.

Shuler said the town is rewriting its zoning and land development regulations into a Unified Development Ordinance to help expedite the process.

Making it happen

Arnold is used to achieving results. 

While in college pursuing a degree in construction management, he worked for a general contractor building houses in Baton Rouge in the post-Hurricane Katrina boom.

"We were turning around 50 houses a year with a staff of four," Arnold remembered. "We couldn't build houses fast enough."

He then ran into an old friend who offered him an opportunity to work on the campaign of Bobby Tindal, who was running for governor in 2007 on the Republican ticket. He won and went on to serve two terms in Louisiana.

Patrick Arnold with assistant Ashley Valdivieso in Charleston Home Builders Association office

Charleston Home Builders Association director Patrick Arnold talks with Ashley Valdivieso, the group's director of community and membership outreach, in his office off Ashley Phosphate Road in North Charleston. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Arnold worked on the transition team and then joined the governor's administration, working in the oil spill coordinator's office.

That lasted about seven months until his brother, Matthew, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Mississippi. Arnold took a leave of absence. When he came back, he went into campaign consulting.

Once he graduated from college, he followed a girl he had befriended at LSU to Charleston.

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He came to the Holy City to visit a friend, and while in the city, attended a black-tie event with Ali Roland, who was going to the Medical University of South Carolina at the time to become a doctor.

During their freshmen year at LSU, the two had met on a blind date. Their initial meeting was a little awkward and didn't go so well. It was a costume party.

"I showed up in a dress and so did she," Arnold, a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, remembered with a laugh. "I came as Gretel the bar maid. She dresses up as Rainbow Brite, a colorful cartoon character. While I was dressed silly, she looked amazing."

Though the two didn't hit it off, they stayed friends all through college and he was secretly in love with Roland. When he came to Charleston to go to the MUSC formal with her, he didn't want to leave.

"I was here about an hour, and decided I was going to move here and date her," Arnold said. That was in the fall of 2008. By January 2009, he was a Lowcountry resident.

He decided to continue working in campaign consulting, helping Statehouse candidates Peter McCoy of Charleston and Harry Cato of the Upstate. In 2010, he became the communications director for Bob Livingston, the state's adjutant general.

In 2011, he returned to Louisiana to work on Jindal's re-election campaign. The next year, he returned to Charleston and joined Donehue Direct, a political consulting firm. He worked on about 30 races across the country for Republican, nonpartisan and advocacy candidates and campaigns.

Patrick Arnold, director of Charleston Home Builders Association

Patrick Arnold became director of Charleston Home Builders Association in January. Warren L. Wise/Staff

After a year, he decided he needed a break from political consulting and went in a totally different direction — doing stand-up comedy. 

That went on for about a year from "anyone who would give me a stage to stand on across the state or across the country. I still do it when I can."

Eventually, he decided he needed regular income and landed a job with the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors as the government affairs director. He also worked hand-in-hand with the Home Builders Association.

It was during this time, in 2015, he and Ali married and set up house in West Ashley.

When longtime executive director Philip Ford left the Home Builders Association in 2016 and moved to Florida, David Ellis of Atlanta came in to fill the void in 2017 and left after less than a year on the job. That's when Arnold took over.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.