I’m very pleased to be writing my first blog post in nearly a year.
Admittedly, I have found it difficult to know what to write about in the interim for one primary reason: I made a commitment that this would be a constructive blog.
I didn’t embark on this project to take shots at people, or advance my own individual interests. It’s about sharing information and keeping people part of a constructive dialogue. This year I’ve been practicing the golden rule, and that’s why communication through this channel has been scarce.
At times this year I have been deeply frustrated with many aspects of my role (something that is obvious to anyone who has met me in this time). The reasons for this are primarily because I am dedicated to delivering the very best for Sechelt, and at times that has been very challenging.
At many times my expectations have not been met, and ultimately the responsibility falls to myself and Council.
As difficult as this past year has been, I’ve come out of it with a renewed sense of dedication to my role, Sechelt’s residents and our collective future.
True leadership isn’t easy: it takes daily dedication to the task at hand. One must also be prepared to take personal risks, and go above and beyond basic politics to truly deliver.
Sechelt’s new Senior Management Team
The work I’m most proud of this year is the hiring of Sechelt’s new Senior Management Team (SMT). This work was done by a personnel committee, consisting of Councillor Doug Wright, myself and Interim CAO Tim Palmer. The results of that work were that Doug Stewart has been hired as our new Director of Finance, Nikki Hoglund as Director of Public Works and Engineering, Andre Isakov as Director of Planning and Development services.
Even at these early stages we are seeing a general improvement of work in all departments due to the leadership these individuals are showing in their respective positions.
One of the key outcomes of Sechelt’s Organisational Review was the recommendation of a SMT model going forward. With these hires, that work is largely complete, although replacement for CAO Tim Palmer is currently underway; which will further augment the team.
Council and the new SMT were quick to engage a strategic planning session in which to chart Council’s wishes for the future. Council provided staff with general goals, and the SMT came back with a strategy to achieve those goals.
Staff recommended that Council adopt a three pronged strategy to get back on track with our long-term planning and vision. These three components are: the execution of Financial Sustainability Plan (FSP), an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP), and an update to our Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP).
I am in complete agreement with the general concept as proposed: Sechelt does need to get back on track with our long-term planning. Not only will that allow us to chart a more rational course through the years ahead, but it will also allow us to use our scarce resources towards greatest impact. Additionally, there are synchronicities between the three plans that will lead to watershed improvements in all of our areas of core operation.
I am very pleased to say that Council has adopted this strategy for the years ahead.
Financial Sustainability Plan
I have written extensively about what I see are large-scale threats to Sechelt’s financial future. I have primarily focussed on the risks associated with the structural deficit and related asset management issues. Additionally, I have written about the need to improve value creation in all areas of our organisation.
In my role as a Councillor I am able to understand the threats, and talk about the threats: but I need to be clear that I don’t have all the skills to fix them.
Sechelt needs a dedicated financial professional such as Doug Stewart to provide the solutions that will change our current picture. In the initial discussions about the FSP, it’s clear that Mr. Stewart has a handle on the many issues, and has good ideas about how to move ahead.
As the FSP process unfolds, watchful observers will see the common outward aspects of financial integrity such as rigorous budget processes, asset management and risk management. Some changes to taxation may occur to get us on a better general financial footing.
Behind the scenes, perhaps hidden from view, there will be a better financial grounding of decision making across the entire organization. Most importantly, Sechelt will be able to better understand the long-term impacts of their financial decisions regarding other key projects, specifically the ICSP and LWMP.
Please stay tuned for more on the FSP in the near future.
Integrated Community Sustainability Plan
The Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) is a synthesis of many intersecting themes in a community’s planning, specifically: social, cultural, environmental and economic. The overarching aim is towards a community’s long-term health and general well being.
Sechelt is in need of an ICSP for many reasons. Firstly, Vision Sechelt (2007) and Sechelt OCP (2011) both indicate many community objectives that we so far have yet to deliver. There are a multitude of lofty environmental and social components that will require specific attention to succeed. As we are required to meet those objectives in some way, the ICSP will provide the tools to make those goals a reality.
Additionally, it is a stated aim of this Council to better examine Sechelt’s identity, and make long-term plans to facilitate that identity. These features will be used for planning, form and character and amenities. The ICSP will help facilitate that conversation.
Liquid Waste Management Plan
The Liquid Waste Management Plan (LWMP) is the capital plan for all aspects of Sechelt’s sewer collection and treatment. It is an important component of capital planning and development support, as well as the obvious environmental attributes.
LWMP are generally done for the long-term planning horizon, around 20 years. It is for this reason that a regular, up to date LWMP will be a critical for Sechelt’s growth throughout this period. The conversation around what areas are going to be serviced and how is a crucial conversation our community needs to have as we grow. Are we going to focus on hooking up existing properties, or focus on new developments? Are we going to upgrade the Water Resource Center, and when? Are we going to employ satellite plants? Our District is large, with specific geographical challenges with regards to wastewater. By having a clearly laid out plan that is predictable we will be able to provide an appropriate response to these challenges.
Additionally, the LWMP will inform the two other plans listed above, moving us towards a holistic understanding of our capital and financial needs moving forward.