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Lodi's new building official a powerful inspiration

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Posted: Friday, June 8, 2007 10:00 pm

Until May, Dennis Canright was so sapped of strength, he couldn't even operate a Weed Eater on his front lawn.

The 6 foot 4 inch, 300-plus pound man, a self-described gym rat who has bench-pressed 545 pounds, was sick.

On Valentine's Day, Canright - Lodi's recently hired top building official - underwent surgery to remove his cancerous right testicle.

He later underwent four weeks of radiation treatment.

In the short period since, Canright has returned to health, begun his new job and inspired co-workers at City Hall.

"I try to approach (life and work) with a smile," the 42-year-old Marysville native said Friday. "I really believe that's a key."

Canright has shared his experience with co-workers, who call him easygoing, professional, funny and a great leader.

In an interview with the News-Sentinel on Friday, he detailed more about the surgery and its hardships. He also spoke about his eagerness to learn the city and help people with their building projects, in any way possible.

"He's probably one of the best building officials that I've ever had the experience to be with," said Mike Mazur, a city building inspector and plan examiner, who's worked in the field for 22 years.

Canright discovered the cancerous growth and had surgery the same week he was offered the job in Lodi.

He had learned of the job opening through contacts in Elk Grove, where he was serving as that city's deputy building official.

Canright stayed in touch with Lodi city leaders, explained his situation and went forward with the surgery.

The most difficult part of the ordeal "was not knowing," at first, whether the growth was cancerous, and later whether the cancer had spread further.

It was more than a week after the surgery that he learned the cancer was contained.

And while Canright credits his faith, family and positive attitude for pulling him through, he said a deal he made with God was just as important.

"I basically had to give my life over and say: 'This is my path,'" he said, explaining that he accepted the idea that he might die.

Today, the father of two boys said he would urge cancer patients to research as much as they can about their disease, and be assertive about asking questions of their doctors.

The building official has spent about 15 years in the field, following four years selling and delivering products for Anheuser Busch.

He studied at Butte College's building inspection program and has worked as a building inspector or plan checker everywhere from small communities in Idaho and Washington to cities including Sacramento and Elk Grove.

Looking forward to his job in Lodi, he said he's eager to help his staff of six prepare for changes to the state's building code, and to learn more about possible redevelopment projects in the city's Downtown.

He said one of his biggest goals is to make citizens feel welcome at the department's front counter.

He knows that with his hulking size, body language is important.

That's why he likes to greet people with a smile and a handshake, and not a grimace.

"I've really tried to work on that," said Canright, who has a bald head, a salt-and-pepper colored goatee and gets mistaken for a professional football player "all the time."

He along with his wife, and sons Jesse and Jonah, plan to vacation next month at Trinity Lake, a favorite wakeboarding spot.

He also wants to get back to working out, and surpass his bench press record.

"My goal is 600 (pounds)," he said.

Canright is clearly not defined by his recent cancer surgery. The experience was a struggle, he said. But the city leader appears ready to move ahead, beginning a bright chapter in Lodi.

"It's not going to hold him back from accomplishing what he wants," noted Araseli Del Castillo, an administrative clerk who works with Canright.

Contact reporter Chris Nichols at chrisn@lodinews.com.

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