Rob Wendling, who developed the urban-forestry program for Gahanna's street and park trees and brought the first community garden to Friendship Park, has retired.

"City forester Rob Wendling has been an asset to the city of Gahanna for over 26 years," said Jeff Barr, parks and recreation director. "Our urban forest and healthy street trees are a testament of Rob's knowledge and passion of trees, tree care and horticulture."

Barr said it has been a privilege not only to work with Wendling but also to learn more about urban forest management from him.

"Rob has always been the go-to person for Gahanna residents and city staff on anything tree-related," he said. "I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors and travels as he spends more time with his children and grandchildren, now that he has retired from the city of Gahanna."

Wendling said he was "blessed to work with some amazing and dedicated people" who were always willing to help make Gahanna better and safer.

Wendling's retirement was effective July 31.

He began his career with the city May 4, 1992, as a parks-maintenance crew leader.

Niel Jurist, Gahanna's public-information manager, said Wendling helped establish Headley Park, Academy Park and later Hannah Park.

In addition, she said, Wendling was instrumental in improving and developing Gahanna's trails.

Throughout his tenure, Jurist said, Wendling worked in conjunction with the city's engineering, building, development and zoning departments on various projects, including creating and implementing the city's tree ordinance for new development.

Wendling also partnered with Ohio State University on a research project spanning three years to study the effects of pollution and growth regarding soil additives.

He also was key in establishing a partnership between Gahanna and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to provide tree and plant trimmings as a food source to animals during various times of the year.

Wendling said there's a lot he will miss about the job, but new adventures are waiting.

"I like to explore," Wendling said.

Jurist said Wendling has demonstrated exceptional leadership and outstanding service to Gahanna and has mentored a number of individuals who have moved on to other roles outside of Gahanna but remained in the green industry.

Wendling, a Worthington resident, said he plans to continue to serve on that community's parks and recreation board and arbor committee.

Julie Hussey, who has worked as Dublin's assistant city forester, has been named Gahanna's new forester.

She will be paid an annual salary of $52,936, according to Jurist.

If she elects to participate in a wellness-incentive and family health plan, her benefits value would be $38,556 for a total annual salary and benefit package of $91,492.

Hussey is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources, with a concentration in forestry and wildlife.

She was scheduled to start work Monday, Aug. 6.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla