Power Vacuuming

Trent Ernst, Editor


A couple weeks ago, we bid farewell to Angie Collison, the District of Tumbler Ridge’s Deputy Corporate Office.

I was talking to her husband, who will (hopefully) soon be following her (hopefully for him, that is; for us it is just another familiar face gone). It dawned on me that, when he leaves, it’s just one more position vacated at the District.

While the District has made a couple recent hires, including hiring two sitting councillors, we are losing people at the top faster than we are gaining them.

This time last year, I mused that the youngest person at town hall was the most senior person there. He’s not there anymore, nor is most of the senior staff who was here at this time last year.

The person who has been here the longest? Matt Treit, the Fire Chief/Bylaw Officer/Emergency Coordinator, who is the exception that proves the rule. He’s been in his current position since spring 2009, and has been a Firefighter here for 20 years.

Barry Elliott was hired just over two years ago, in the summer of 2011. Elliott occupies two positions: Chief Administration Officer and Corporate Officer. While there is currently no plans (as far as we know) to break the two into two separate positions, the fact remains that the town is down one body already.

We don’t have a Director of Community Services anymore, as the previous Director, Chuck Jensen, has left for health related reasons. Jason Collison has been filling in, but he’s out of here as soon as he sells the house.

The Community Development Officer position has remained unoccupied for nearly a year, while the Deputy Corporate Officer seat is still warm after Angie left last month.

Doug Beale took over as Operations Manager about six months ago after the previous Operations Manager left after a year on the job, and Candie Laporte crossed the one year mark this spring.

That’s fully half the senior staff positions unoccupied. Then there’s the recently filled and even more recently vacated Engineering Position…well, you get the picture.

Every organization can expect a bit of churn, but there is nobody sitting on the senior staff now that was there five years ago. Most have been here for less than two.

This does not bode well for a town looking desperately for stability after the mines shut down a decade ago. The council is currently looking to put together a sustainability plan. Perhaps they should look at putting together a stability plan as well.

The thing is, there doesn’t appear to be one factor. The previous Chief Financial Officer left because her husband got a job elsewhere. Some have used Tumbler Ridge as a stepping stone to a “real” job. Others just didn’t fit into the community or the job. Some have stepped down for medical reasons.

Tumbler Ridge is not a town in crisis. That’s not what I’m trying to say. It just seems that so many people come here with good intentions, only to leave again as soon as they can find a new job.

In comparison, the District of Chetwynd’s CAO has been there for seven years, the Public Works Manager, five. The Deputy Administrative officer is new, but only because the previous person retired a few months ago, after 25 years. The person who looks after the recreation centre has been working for the District for 20 years, though not all of that in her current position. Leo, the Fire Chief, has been around “forever,” according to the person I talked to. It’s a similar story in Hudson’s Hope.

So yes, turnover is normal for any organization. But not to the extent that the District has seen over the last few years. Someone suggested it’s just a part of the cycle, but you need two hands to count the number of Economic Development Officers that have gone through here in the last decade.

Is it the corporate culture at town hall? Is it the culture of the town itself? Or is it just that the world has shifted and five years in one place is considered an eternity for municipal administrative types?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t really sell the idea of Tumbler Ridge as a stable place. A place where people can put down their roots.

So here’s hoping that, as the District seeks to fill these positions that the people they find will want to stick around, at least for a while.