The Kelowna bureaucrat brought in to temporarily lead the Central Okanagan Regional District’s transition effort last year says he’s ready to return to the City Hall.
But Paul Macklem, appointed interim RDCO CAO last spring following the retirement of its former chief administrative officer Harold Reay, said the experience has given him a new-found appreciation of the role the regional district plays in local government here.
Macklem will return to his job as Kelowna’s general manager of corporate services in mid-April.
But, as he closes out his tenure helping the regional district take stock of its operations and the services it provides across the region and redefine itself, he said the year-long experience has shown him there is definitely a place for the regional district in future, despite the fact all all but two sparsely populated areas at each end of the Central Okanagan are now incorporated.
He told the Capital News Wednesday that while he feels the plan he has overseen since April 2012 was “a bit ambitious,” he is happy with the results.
“I’ve enjoyed just about every minute of it,” he said, praising the RDCO staff as a great team of people to work with.
Macklem knew the regional district well from his many years as head of Kelowna’s finance department— the city is the biggest municipal government represented on the RDCO board and contributes just over 70 per cent of the costs of its locally funded programs. But he said he has gained a new understanding of the role the regional district plays here as a result of his time leading it.
In the last year, he said, the RDCO has been able to combine some services and management roles as long-time managers and directors have left the organization, either through retirement of by moving on to other jobs. It has taken a closer look at its programs in an effort to improve them and has implemented their findings.
The RDCO handles several regional services like the ever controversial dog control program, regional parks, regional emergency services, 911 dispatch—including dispatch for eight other regional district areas throughout the southern Interior and one in the Squamish area, inspections in the two electoral areas of Okanagan West (Westside) and Okanagan East (Joe Riche-Ellison) and several small water utilities.
Macklem said while there has been some downsizing in staff, the number has not been large. The biggest reductions in manpower took place before Macklem was brought on board, in the years immediately following West Kelowna’s incorporation in 2007. Currently, the regional district has about 120 employees.
As for future leadership of the regional district, a search has been ongoing for some time now to find a new, permanent CAO. Macklem said he expects an announcement to be made soon.
One decision that had to be made prior to Macklem leaving was what to do with the large RDCO administration building it operates out of on KLO Road.
With a portion already rented out to the Sterile Insect Release Program and another area rented to the Okanagan Basin Water Board, there is still an estimated 4,000-square feet of vacant space on the building’s second floor.
Last year, RDCO board chairman Robert Hobson said the regional district was considering selling the building but Macklem said it now looks like another tennant will be sought for the vacant space.
“In a depressed property market like this, it doesn’t make sense to sell it right now,” he said.
A list of potential types of business that could be housed in the building has been drawn up and a search for a third tenant is on.