CHAMBERLAIN — It’s his trademark characteristic.
“I've never, ever worn anything but a black felt hat since 1987,” said Greg Powell, city engineer for the city of Chamberlain. “Everybody in town knows me with that stupid black hat.”
Since 1996, Powell has overseen hundreds of projects for the betterment of the city — in every department imaginable. In his time as city engineer, Powell said he oversaw the water, sewer, streets and parks and recreation departments, as well as the airport, pool, and cemetery. He also issued building permits, helped determine property lines and enforce nuisance policies.
“Day-to-day is never the same, one to the next,” Powell said.
Going forward, the role won't be the same for Chamberlain, either. Powell gave his notice that he was retiring in April, and the community advertised the city engineering position. After a month, the city leadership altered the job description and is now looking for a city administrator instead.
Powell said that the incoming city manager will cover most of his duties in the newly named job. He estimated that 15% of the job had involved engineering.
Chamberlain Mayor Chad Mutziger said the city is going to miss Powell’s leadership and commitment to the city.
“The man has literally poured his heart into making Chamberlain a better place,” Mutziger said of Powell. “Hands down, Chamberlain is a better place.”
Mutziger admitted it will be tough to replace Powell, but said that Powell put the city on a better path.
Returning home to better the city
Following his graduation from South Dakota State University, Powell took a job working for the state out of Pierre, but the distance from the farm he owned with his wife near Chamberlain proved too difficult to maintain both. So, he packed up and moved closer to home.
Shortly after his arrival, Powell went to work, overseeing projects to build sewer and water plants and make major improvements at the municipal airport.
Powell made clear that most of his projects would never have come to fruition without the help of the city’s mayor and city commission.
“I've been really fortunate that we've had just incredible leadership from two mayors that gave me a lot of latitude to do what I thought was appropriate for the community,” Powell said.
Other work included the construction of a fishing pier along the Missouri River and a new Chamberlain swimming pool.
Today, Powell said that after over 25 years in his role, it’s time for him to slow down. In addition to his own ranch, he plans to help take care of his mother’s farm, too, while working only a few days each week at a private engineering firm.
“It’s not that I dislike the position,” Powell said, “it’s just that I need to slow down.”
The city of Chamberlain has received approximately 20 applications for the city administrator position, which closed Friday. Qualified applicants will be considered by the city’s finance officer, and the top picks will be forwarded to the Chamberlain City Commission for consideration.
Powell said he plans to return to help with some training to his successor. The projects accomplished during Powell’s tenure would never have been possible if it weren’t for the “talented, hard-working people” on his staff, he asserted.
“You don’t get stuff done if you’re fighting with employees, and that’s a situation I never had,” Powell said. “That’s what makes this job work — people you can trust.”