Getting a car inspected at Inspection Lane just won’t be the same when Ralph Powell retires at the end of the month.
The inspector, who always greets customers entering the small trailer at Inspection Lane with a smile, has done his best for the past 28 years to make the car inspection process a painless — and even positive — experience.
Powell is looking forward to putting more time and effort into properties he owns throughout the island, and waking up whenever he wants.
“I will not miss getting up Monday through Friday to come to work for 8 a.m.,” Powell said between inspecting cars on Tuesday afternoon, December 4. “I can get out of my bed any time I choose.”
Close Friendships Developed
A native St. Johnian, Powell’s professional life began in the military in the 1970s. In 1974, he started his career with the V.I. government, working for the Department of Public Works and the Department of Finance. Powell then worked for the U.S. Postal Service on St. Thomas before coming home to St. John in 1980 and taking the helm as inspector at Inspection Lane.
The well-known face many St. John residents encounter when getting their cars inspected each year has most enjoyed the challenge of working with people during his nearly 30 years on the job, Powell explained.
“I like when people remain ethical,” he said. “People try to get away with stuff, but I don’t have a problem with that. Most people understand what they need to do (to pass inspection) and they do it.”
Powell has developed many close friendships during his time on the job, he added.
“I’ve developed great friends, some I’ve been friends with for more than 20 years,” said Powell. “It’s a good job.”
The inspector often gets recognized by people he interacted with several years ago, and has even done business with two generations.
Years on the Job “Enchanting”
“People who got their driver’s license from me when they were 18 or 19 years old still remember me,” said Powell. “One woman remembered getting her license from me, and her kids got their license from me too.”
Powell, a talented man, will be greatly missed by the many people whose cars he inspects each day, explained St. John resident Jane Rosenberg.
“He’s very smart and quick, and he knows his stuff backwards and forwards,” said Rosenberg as Powell swiftly inspected her car. “He should be the mayor, but he’s overqualified.”
The well-known inspector will always fondly remember his time at Inspection Lane, he explained.
“My years of service to this community have been enchanting and charming,” said Powell. “It was a joy to me.”
There’s been no word on who will replace Powell once he retires, but the popular inspector is confident that person will have the skills necessary to do the job right.
“His public relations skills might not be as good, but his knowledge of the job will be good,” said Powell.