While most Powell residents may not know Doug Wenzel's name, he's probably been inside a majority of their homes.

Wenzel is the chief building official for the city of Powell – at least for a few more hours. The city's longest-serving employee officially retires at the end of the August.

Wenzel moved to Powell in the mid-1970s – about three decades after the village's incorporation. He said the town was affordable, small, sleepy and not particularly welcoming to newcomers when his family arrived.

The day Wenzel's family moved in, a Powell police cruiser pulled into his front yard and an officer approached the house.

"We thought, 'Oh, this is nice. He's welcoming us to town,' " Wenzel said. "He said, 'You know, the people that used to live here were nice and quiet.' "

Although he said neighbors initially would close the curtains when his family walked by and waved, the Wenzels eventually made friends in town.

Wenzel, who has a background in construction, started going on inspections with one such acquaintance: village Building Inspector Robert Trowbridge.

Wenzel officially began working for Powell in 1989 as one of two people in the building department. His lone co-worker in the department also served as the village engineer.

City Manager Steve Lutz said Wenzel has seen Powell grow from "a small crossroads community" to a city of more than 12,000.

"He has been in almost all of our homes and businesses from the ground up," Lutz said. "Oftentimes, he's used as a resource for numerous department heads when there's an issue. We'll bring Doug in to try to tap into his memory."

Along with Wenzel's institutional memory, Lutz said it will be difficult to replace the chief building official's expertise. Wenzel is certified to conduct both electrical and plumbing inspections, a rarity that may lead the city to hire outside help even after finding a new chief building official.

Wenzel said population growth in southern Delaware County has been the biggest change during his career. He's also seen the transformation of the Olentangy Local School District from a rural to suburban school system. Students of one of the state's premier districts may be surprised to learn grades K-12 could fit in one complex off Shanahan Road when Wenzel's three sons attended school.

"When it rained, there were 50 buckets in the hallways," he said. "They called it 'Old and Grungy,' actually."

Although much about southern Delaware County has changed during Wenzel's tenure, some things have remained the same.

He recalled with a laugh a meeting in council chambers that stretched past 1 a.m. as people complained about a housing development and its potential affect on traffic. While newer residents may assume the meeting was about a recent apartment or condo proposal, it actually was a session to discuss the development of Olentangy Ridge – now one of the city's older subdivisions.

Wenzel, whose department also conducts commercial permitting for Liberty Township, said some of the highlights of his career involve working with officials at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which sits west of city limits.

"It's been a pleasure to be a part of a growing zoo," he said. "We've seen a lot of wonderful changes down there."

Wenzel, who now lives in Orange Township with his wife, Barbara, has a simple answer for what he plans to do during his retirement.

"Whatever I feel like that day," he said.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@twgallick