For 23 years, the city of Powell has known one police chief. But when Gary Vest retired in May, the torch was passed to his deputy chief, Steve Hrytzik, at least in an interim capacity.
On Tuesday, that capacity became permanent as Hrytzik was sworn in as Powell’s chief of police during a meeting of Powell City Council. Hrytzik has been a member of the Powell Police Department since 1991 and was promoted to deputy chief in 2008. Prior to being named the deputy chief, he was promoted to sergeant in 1995 and to lieutenant in 1996.
“Chief Hrytzik’s experience makes him uniquely qualified to serve as our new chief,” City Manager Steve Lutz states in a press release. “We look forward to having him serve in this role and lead our police force for the next several years.”
“It’s a goal that I’ll meet, and it’s a great opportunity,” Hrytzik told The Gazette. “I’ve been a part of this community now for about 28.5 years, and I’ve grown as this community has grown. It’s just an incredible opportunity to continue to be a part of this group of people that I enjoy working with.”
Hrytzik said his end game was never to become the chief of police when he began as an officer. Rather, he said his only goal at the time was being the best officer he could be. He said Vest’s arrival to the Powell Police Department and working with him and developing his leadership skills was “very instrumental in helping me steer my way through a lot to get to this point.”
Asked what has kept him in Powell for 28 years, allowing him this opportunity to now serve as its police chief, Hrytzik said it has been the community.
“I thoroughly enjoy working with the staff here. But more importantly, I enjoy working in this community with the citizens,” he said. “There are some great people in this community that I consider to be some of my closest friends. I enjoy watching the city grow and go from a little crossroad to the community that it is now.”
Hrytzik said a lot of the steps that he had to take to ultimately be named Powell’s police chief centered around managing people and working in groups. He said chairing task forces and organizations related to law enforcement helped him to develop skills related to dealing with people and solving problems.
Those groups include serving as the vice chair of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police Advisory Services Committee, Liberty Township/Powell YMCA Board, past president of the Delaware County Criminal Justice Association, chair of the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency, vice chair of the Delaware County 911 Board, past president of the Ohio Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates, and as a board member of the Delaware County Department of Job and Family Services.
Hrytzik added that in addition to the experience gained from serving those organizations, the mentorship of Vest was every bit as important to his growth.
“I’m here because of him,” Hrytzik said of what Vest has meant to his career. “He was an intricate part of helping me be successful and getting to this point. The advice he has given me over the years, the guidance … He held me to task, showed me what it means to be a leader and to serve a community. He’s very community-oriented, and I learned a lot from that.”
Hrytzik said the emphasis on community is something that is instilled in every employee because that’s the very reason they have their jobs.
“We serve this community. This community is taking money out of their pockets to give us to provide a service, and we have to make sure we provide the best service we can,” he said.
Now sitting atop the chain of command, Hrytzik said it was certainly an adjustment in not having a supervisor above him to turn to when issues arise. However, he said he understands the importance of his position and the effect his decisions will have on both the agency and the community.
“It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “But I think as long as you remember that, hopefully, you make the right choices and you do the best you can for everyone involved.”
As for his message to the Powell community, Hrytzik said, “You can expect to see the same professional service that you’ve seen for the last 23 years with Chief Vest. But you’ll also see a department that is constantly looking for ways to provide better service to the community, and we will continue to look for ways to help out wherever we can.”
Hrytzik said what most excites him about leading the Powell Police Department is the “opportunity for the future and what this community and what this police department will be able to do.”
Asked about the challenges associated with heading Powell’s police force, Hrytzik said the challenges are really all positives.
“This community has a high expectation, which is good because we have a high expectation for ourselves,” he said. “People hold us accountable and that’s what we want. It keeps us sharp, it keeps us engaged.”