Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi (left) shows then-premier Christy Clark and Mayor Colin Basran maps identifying potential flooding areas along Kelowna’s lakeshore during the this spring’s flooding. Mattiussi has announced he plans to retire in the new year. —Image: contributed

Kelowna’s city manager ready to retire

After 22 years with the city, 13 as city manager, Ron Mattiussi says it's time step down

Ron Mattiussi has made it official—it’s time for the City of Kelowna to start looking for a new city manager.

Mattiussi, who has worked for the city for 22 years—the last 13 years as its top bureaucrat—said while he has not announced a specific date for his departure, he’ll retire from the job before next summer.

“I want to give council enough time to find a replacement,” the 61-year-old said Thursday. He added he also wants to have the search for his replacement out of the way before the run-up to next October’s municipal elections.

“When I started this job (as city manager), I said I would do it for 10 years. It’s been 13. It’s time.”

Mattiussi came to Kelowna from Edmonton in 1995 to be the city’s director of planning. In Alberta, he had been the executive director of the Edmonton Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Looking back, he said he’s proud of how Kelowna has developed in that time, particularly the downtown area, and the work city staff have done in managing growth and improving communication between the city and its residents.

During his tenure, Kelowna’s population has grown a whopping 30 per cent, making it one of the fastest growing areas in the country. And with that growth has come a myriad of issues the city has had to deal with, many of them new for local government. Dealing with the environment has moved from simply land and water protection to include larger issues such as grappling with the effects of climate change.

Housing has changed from finding homes for the hard-to-house to the bigger picture of housing affordability for all city residents. Homelessness has grown, the opioid crisis has exploded, transit and transportation issues are front of mind as are many other social issues, once seen as the purview of the province, are now being dealt with at the local level.

The complexity of the job, compared with the mid-1990s when he arrived in town, is very different today, he said.

In the new year—the city’s audit subcommittee—made up of Mayor Colin Basran and Couns. Gail Given and Luke Stack— are expected to start the process of seeking Mattiussi’s replacement. While there are some potential candidates already working at city call, city human relations director Stu Leatherdale said the search with be both internal and external.

Mattiussi said he will not be involved in picking his replacement.

As for his future, he said after he leaves city hall, he plans to do some consulting work, advising municipalities on emergency planning. He said having worked for a city with a regional emergency plan that has been developed over the years and put to the test several times, he feels he has knowledge that could benefit other communities, especially smaller municipalities.

It’s an area he is personally very familiar with, having served several times as the director of the emergency operations centre in the Central Okanagan during the wildfires of 2003 and most recently earlier this year, first dealing with flooding and its aftermath and then the threat of fire during the summer.

He said he also plans to get involved with some volunteer causes close to his heart, something that was difficult to do as city manager.

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