No bad blood as West Kelowna’s top bureaucrat will help find replacement | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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No bad blood as West Kelowna’s top bureaucrat will help find replacement

February 20, 2019 - 9:00 AM

KELOWNA - It turned out to be ideal timing for a new West Kelowna council that wants to “rebrand” itself.

Sworn into office on Nov. 6 2018 with four of seven new faces, council took just over three months to decide the best way to rebrand was to not renew Chief Administrator Officer Jim Zaffino’s contract when it expires at the end of June.

That short window gives them time to find a replacement and have Zaffino help with the transition.

“Council wants to go in a new direction and that’s fine,” Zaffino told “The only place they can change is the CAO because we have the one employee concept. They can’t change any of the staff, only the CAO can.”

The decision to not renew his contract was made last Tuesday, Feb. 12, Zaffino said. He found out Wednesday and it was announced in a news release yesterday, Feb. 19.

‘I’m good with it,” Zaffino said. “I’m actually going to help in choosing the new CAO and I’m here for them.”

Although he turns 65 this year, Zaffino is not planning to retire, saying he relishes new challenges. He denied being taken by surprise by the decision since he had not given his contract renewal any thought and always had a “Plan B” in mind to “parachute” into other municipalities and help resolve problems they have.

Zaffino worked for the City of Penticton for 32 years, leaving as deputy treasurer. He then spent two years as director of finance with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen before being “head hunted” as Chief Financial Officer for the newly incorporated District of Westside — which later became the City of West Kelowna — being officially hired on Feb. 25, 2008.

He served as a staff member for six years then was hired on a five-year contract as Chief Administrative officer

Zaffino said its normal practice for Chief Administrative Officer’s to be on contract.

He was actually the fifth staff member hired in West Kelowna and recalls having staff meetings with just the five of them. Now there are almost 200 employees. Only one of the original five will be left after Zaffino departs.

“I’m very happy with what I did here,” Zaffino said. “I had a lot of successes. I had great councils to work with and they put up with my very conservative numbers for the budget."

“We were a new municipality with a lot of unknowns. Being new, we didn’t have the reserves to keep up with the infrastructure that was set at a rural standard. I set up some software for everything from the Citizen’s Survey to keeping track of reserves to the budget.”

Mayor Gord Milsom painted the decision to let Zaffino go in much the same manner.

“We’ve been really pleased with Jim,” Milsom said. “He has been a major contributor to the city’s success over the past 11 years, no doubt about it. The new council has decided to pick a new direction and, perhaps, take a more outward approach toward leadership as an organization. Building relationships, engaging our residents, being more communicative is a direction the new council would like to take.”

The city’s new strategic plan will be outlined at an open house today from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westbank Lions Community Centre.

The city’s focus, in the past, was on building a “strong, viable organization and community,” Milsom said. Essentially, putting together the nuts and bolts of a new city.

“We’re just taking a different direction as far as the leadership of the organization is concerned,” Milsom said. “Simple as that. Not much more to read into it.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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