When Dale Van Winkle began as a codes administrator for the City of Berea in 1989, the city’s planning and codes department was more or less a one-man operation. For all intents and purposes, Van Winkle was the codes department, except for one part-time secretary.
Almost three decades and nearly 1,500 public meetings later, Van Winkle is now ready to retire, leaving behind a department that has guided the steady growth of the city. His final day was last Tuesday. “It has been a wonderful experience. There were some rough times and some really good times, but I’ve tried my best to raise the professionalism of the office,” Van Winkle said.
Commenting on Van Winkle’s departure, Berea Mayor Steven Connelly expressed appreciation for Van Winkle’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s planning and codes history and procedures. “His experience in the growth of the city was a resource that will be sorely missed,” Connelly said.
Berea City Administrator Randy Stone noted that in addition to Van Winkle’s contributions in codes and planning, Van Winkle has been instrumental in bringing important capital projects to fruition. “Dale is very dedicated to the city, and he has been an excellent employee,” Stone said. “He’s trained so many people in codes, he has a broad knowledge of planning, and he’s taken on every task I’ve asked of him and done an excellent job, especially when it comes to the capital improvements in the city. He’s really going to be missed.”
Some capital projects have proven more challenging than others. “One of the first things they [city officials] showed me was a red line on the map and they said, ‘This is the proposed bypass, and you’re going to be working on it.’ Randy and I met numerous times with the state before anything happened.” State transportation cabinet officials were very skeptical at first, but after Berea took the initiative and completed the design of the project, the state came around. “Now when a city wants a bypass, they [transportation officials] say ‘You all need to find out what Berea did,’” said Van Winkle.
Van Winkle acknowledges his work as Codes Enforcement Administrator had its tough days, especially when he occasionally had to disagree with builders. The key to making it work, he said, was trying to be as fair as possible. “I’ve always tried to treat people fairly, because if you treat people fairly and consistently, they don’t mind it as much [when enforcing codes],” Van Winkle said. “There were some people who didn’t like me at first, and I thought they were going to be my worst enemies. But they turned out to be some of my best friends. I tried to educate everybody about what we try to do – that there is a reason for why we do things. Sometimes we make decisions for health reasons, or safety or aesthetic reasons. But there is a reason.”
Van Winkle said he won’t be watching many planning commission meetings soon since he has other things he’d rather attend to, such as travel, home repair, and for the first month, just resting up. In the meantime, he said he’ll take with him fond memories of his service to the City of Berea and its citizens. “I have loved it,” Van Winkle said. “It was where I needed to be. As Mayor [Clifford] Kerby said, ‘I think Dale’s found his calling.’ I’ve enjoyed it very much.”