Chet Hopper, Reynoldsburg's chief building inspector, has been named 2008 code official of the year by the Central Ohio Code Officials Association.

Chet Hopper, Reynoldsburg's chief building inspector, has been named 2008 code official of the year by the Central Ohio Code Officials Association.

The association includes 210 municipalities. Through a vote by members, and to his surprise, Hopper was chosen for this year's award last week.

He has been a member of the association for nine years.

"I was completely caught off guard with the award, but I'm very honored, and in my eyes it is a very prestigious award," Hopper said. "When you have your peers recognize you for something you work hard for on a daily basis, it's very flattering."

Hopper, 45, graduated from Licking Heights High School in 1981 and soon after followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, working as a laborer in the construction industry.

He moved up the ladder, working as a superintendent with the construction firm Altman Company, before coming to Reynoldsburg. He was hired in 1999 as a code enforcement officer.

"I took the natural step to the construction industry and actually didn't get involved in the building-code inspection side of things until the job opened up here in Reynoldsburg," Hopper said.

Hopper was hired as a building inspector by former Reynoldsburg Mayor Bob McPerson and was promoted to chief building inspector in 2005.

With a staff of three building inspectors and two code enforcement officers, Hopper said the work requires a busy schedule six days a week.

"The difference between a building inspector and a code enforcement officer is the code officers are dedicated to the inspections of buildings already built, and the building inspectors are dedicated to current construction of buildings," Hopper said. "We protect lives as a fireman or police officer would; we just do it as building inspectors, making sure buildings are built to code so they don't collapse. We make sure that life-saving devices like smoke detectors or electric wiring or additions to a house are put in place and installed and function correctly."

Hopper said, "If the economy would allow it I certainly could use more code enforcement officers, because my current staff is extremely busy, and we continually get more complaints than what we can take care of on a daily basis. By complaints, I mean people calling and e-mailing about things as little as somebody hasn't put their trash cans back properly, or as major as a tenant in an apartment with backup in their bathtub," he said.

"We try to take the most serious complaints first, we have to prioritize the complaints," he said.

Hopper said his code enforcement officers work six days a week, and depending on the work load, can cover the entire city within a two-week period.

"My goal is to minimize the amount of time the code enforcement officers have to spend in the office, so they are out their looking for and responding to code violation complaints," he said.

Central Ohio Code Officials Association member Mike Asebrook said Hopper is deserving of the award.

"I can't think of a better chief building official than Chet Hopper, he's extremely dedicated and works well with the community and is very interested in promoting safety," Asebrook said. "He's definitely one of the people we would term a 'first preventer' and when a building official does his job, then we all enjoy a more safe community and building environment."

Mayor Brad McCloud said the award was unexpected.

"The awards you cherish the most are those voted on by your peers," said McCloud.

"I am so proud that 'one of our own' was selected," he said.

"Chet's dedication, knowledg and reputation as a respected professional in the field of code enforcement, makes him a true champion of public service for the city of Reynoldsburg," he said.

"I'm proud of the award and I enjoy very much what I do and all of the people I work with and work for and want to continue to do it," Hopper said.