October 28, 2011

Wichita's inspections chief Kurt Schroeder to step down

Kurt Schroeder, the city's director of central inspection for almost two decades, has announced his retirement, effective Dec. 23.

Kurt Schroeder, the city's director of central inspection for almost two decades, has announced his retirement, effective Dec. 23.

Schroeder, 56, said he's taking early retirement from the city.

"I've been thinking about doing something else for a while," Schroeder said Thursday. "The city's early retirement came into play, so I evaluated that and decided to venture out and try some things."

Schroeder is a longtime city employee, having worked in the city's Office of Central Inspection as a division head before becoming interim superintendent in 1992. He assumed the permanent role a year later.

Most recently, Schroeder was instrumental in a seven-month task force study that recommended more stringent regulations for building homes with slab foundations.

That study came after an Eagle investigation revealed that several slab homes in the Maple Shade subdivision in southeast Wichita were cracking apart due to improperly compacted soil, poor draining and poor foundation reinforcement

Wess Galyon, the head of the Wichita Area Builders Association, credited Schroeder with "carrying the water" on a tough and sometimes unpopular set of regulations that now limits the chance of a Maple Shade repeat.

"That task force was a pretty comprehensive group of people, and Kurt didn't shy away from stepping in and saying we need to do something about this," Galyon said.

"We worked interactively to make sure everything that needed addressed got addressed and to prepare a work document that the people who've seen it think is impressive."

Galyon also praised Schroeder's willingness to work with the builders, and his commitment to technology that streamlined the building and permitting process.

Council Member Janet Miller said Schroeder has "had a tough job the past four years dealing with declining permit fees while simultaneously having to find creative ways to continue the same levels of service."

"That's been a huge challenge and he's handled it admirably," Miller said.

Schroeder said he's most proud of how his code enforcement people have performed their jobs.

"I think they have an underappreciated job and really put their nose to the grindstone every day," he said. "It's a sometimes thankless job they do quietly and people rarely say thank you, a tough job to keep the people who are complaining satisfied.

"I'm very proud of our staff. They want to help people out and find solutions and get things done and keep things safe. I'm proud of them."

Schroeder said he plans to keep working and play some golf.

"I'm not going to make any money playing golf, but I'm going to play some golf," he said.

"I'm not sure what I want to do. I really want to take some time. I have some things in mind I know I'd continue to enjoy."

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