Due to upcoming surgery, I will likely be unable to attend upcoming events to meet our candidates and get a sense for their views so I can make an informed choice. Nevertheless I would like to make some points that may be considered worthy of consideration for those putting their names forward.
Running for office is the highest expression of interest there is for a functioning democratic society and I thank all those putting themselves forward to take on the task. I also wish to thank Peter Robb, Tim Hudie, Ron Smith and Susan Johnston for their service in previous councils. Having served as a senior executive for several large private and public organizations, I retired to Hope and agreed to serve as town manager on a transitional basis with the council led by Mayor Laurie French after working to assist with the planning efforts in economic development. That council was responsible for the successful completion of the Kawkawa Lake Bridge, the renovation of the Sucker’s Creek Bridge (all under budget at completion), attracting the Flying J to build their facility, and the initiation of the park renovations between the bridge and the rec centre. Most important of all was the decision to close the landfill site and to add a transfer station which opened recently. The savings generated by this project alone amount to $735,000 per year and ended the decades long pollution of the Fraser River. The outgoing council continued and/or finalized these initiatives among many others.
None of the above would have been able to be accomplished without a team effort of the elected officials and the staff they work with. This requires an ongoing trust, good communications and an understanding of respective roles. When I came to the position of town manager in Hope, the pool of qualified candidates for senior staff had dried up because of unconstructive council/staff relationships.
As one would expect, the turnover of senior staff had become a serious problem in getting anything done as few wanted to work in Hope’s senior jobs.
I congratulate the last two councils under Mayor French and Mayor Johnston on working to repair this relationship which I believe has been a big factor in the impressive achievements of the last six years. Councils need to understand that their role is to decide what needs to be done within the stringent provincial municipal law environment, communicate those goals effectively to gain citizen support and generally oversee staff efforts in moving the plan forward. It is staff’s role to execute the plan within the budget allocated by council. When these roles are misunderstood or when the parties don’t develop trust relationships, everyone loses.
Because staff and elected officials are human, mistakes can and will be made from time to time and there will be those who are disappointed with any council decision. I hope all the candidates thoughtfully do their homework on the nature of the job, study the limitations on their powers and don’t make silly promises they can’t keep. Day to day operation of a municipality is a staff responsibility. Elected members meet infrequently to approve or amend staff recommendations and to vote on key priorities, policy and budget. A colleague of mine reminded me from time to time when he thought I was getting too fancy that “there is sometimes more virtue in doing the common, uncommonly well.” Running a municipality is not that dissimilar and understanding and respect for the respective roles will be a great start to the next term.
I wish each candidate good luck and thanks, and hope that the successful ones bring a sense of team and goodwill to further extend the stability and good government of the last six years.
Former Town Manager and happy Hope retiree