City of White Rock is continuing its search for a full-time director of planning and development services following months of temporary appointments, chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill confirmed last week.
The position is currently filled by engineering and operations director Greg St. Louis, following the departure of acting-director Kurt Alberts in mid-December at the end of a short-term contract.
But Bottrill rejects the suggestion, voiced by some council critics, that there has been a “revolving door” on the office since the departure of Karen Cooper before June last year.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as a revolving door,” he said Thursday, noting a public tendency to confuse temporary and fill-in assignments with long-term appointments.
Bottrill said that while there have been only “acting” directors since Cooper’s departure, there has been stability in the department with the continued presence of planning manager Carl Isaak and planner Chris McBeath.
“Carl has been a leading and large part of the official community plan review process and will continue to do so,” he said. “It is challenging when we’re in a position that we don’t have a permanent senior staff person while we’re finishing this, but we’ll manage.”
Bottrill said staff changes don’t signal any change of philosophy. Planning continues to reflect the direction of the mayor and council – as well as the wishes of the public, as evidenced by the OCP review, he said.
“A lot of the community has had the opportunity to provide input in that process,” Bottrill said. “People are very passionate about planning and development in this city.”
Cooper’s departure – after two years with the city – followed a medical leave and was not formally announced, Bottrill agreed Monday.
“We don’t make official announcements when staff leaves, typically,” he said. “We don’t usually make announcements when staff join us.”
(He acknowledged some exceptions to this with recent appointments, such as utilities manager Dr. Saad Jasim last summer.)
Bottrill declined to discuss the circumstances of Cooper’s departure.
“Ms. Cooper was interested in pursuing other opportunities – it happens,” he said. “Mr. Alberts was able to (fill in) but I knew we were going to have him only on a temporary basis… I’m thankful for the time he was available.”
Bottrill said the search for a new planning director is focused on finding a qualified, high-profile senior manager.
“Sometimes you get a position that’s a little difficult to fill. Often you have to be patient and wait for the right person – you’re always looking for a strong candidate.”
Bottrill said no time limit has been placed on the search at this point.
“It would be unfair to put a timeline on it – that would imply simply a warm body would do,” he said.
“It has to be somebody with the capability to step up – not just someone with the technical skills, but also with the leadership skills.”
According to a city news release issued in 2014 announcing Cooper’s appointment, the role is to provide leadership to all functions within the department, including planning, development review, economic development, building permits, business licences, bylaw enforcement and animal control.