Penticton's third CAO in two years is here: How the search evolved - InfoNews

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Penticton's third CAO in two years is here: How the search evolved

In spite of hiring three Chief Administrative Officers in the City of Penticton in six years, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit says the city is no different than any other of its size when it comes to attracting and keeping administrators.
December 12, 2016 - 8:00 PM

TWO PREVIOUS HIRES HAD NO EXPERIENCE

PENTICTON - It might appear as though the City of Penticton is having a hard time staffing Chief Administrative Officers, based on a recent history of the city’s CAO position.

Since 2010, the city has hired three administrative officers, including Annette Antoniak (2010- 2015), Eric Sorensen (2015-2016) and most recently, Peter Weeber, set to begin his tenure next week. Of the three, Weeber is the only one with experience in municipal government, albeit in places much smaller than Penticton. Weeber has experience as Chief Administrative Officer with the District of Mackenzie (population 3,507), the Village of Queen Charlotte (population 948) and the community of Stewart (population 494).

Sorensen was president and CEO of Sun-Rype Products and served as president and vice-president for two other private firms before coming out of retirement last year to take administrative duties in Penticton.

Antoniak served as Chief Executive Officer for the Pacific National Exhibition and the British Columbia Olympic and Paralympic Games prior to a short stint as Economic Development Officer for Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Area “D” before taking on the Penticton administrator’s job.

But Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit sees Penticton as a typical city of its size when it comes to attracting management staff. When asked if he thought Penticton has more trouble than other towns its size attracting CAOs, he said the city is on par with other communities.

“I think in this day and age there are a lot of job opportunities for people and people are exploring different careers instead of sticking with one career, one company, they are a bit more adventurous with the business and management opportunities that come before them,” he says.

Jakubeit admitted some prospective candidates weren’t prepared to take a pay cut to fill the Penticton position.

"In a staff of 300 there’s always a fair bit of turnover, which is a good thing because it allows movement within the organization, fresh eyes, a fresh perspective. It has a negative side, too, because you sometimes lose that knowledge or historical base,” he added.

Jakubeit said the public can get more easily involved in operations the size of a city like Penticton, and can sometimes try to micromanage or couch-quarterback the affairs of the city.

The hiring criteria for Weeber seems to represent a change from that used to hire Sorensen. Jakubeit says the city wanted to find someone not only young and ambitious, but someone who has a proven track record of success in their career path, “with management, with leadership, with relationship-building,” something he feels the city has found in Weeber.

When asked if the city’s hiring criteria was part of a learning process, Jakubeit said: “If you asked the staff here, especially the ones who have been here the longest, they would probably say he’s the best CAO who’s ever worked for the city. He garnered a lot of respect.”

Jakubeit noted that the chief administrator’s role differed from private to public sector.

“Coming from the corporate world and jumping into municipal operations was a big adjustment for Eric. In the corporate world you and your board make a decision and action it. In the municipal world you have public who want to be a part of the process, who will also insert themselves into that process or go to council to direct their point of view,” Jakubeit says.

"I think the differences between the municipal and corporate world represented a challenge to him and excited him to take it on. After being in it for a year, and having been retired for several years, he looked at it and was wondering if there wasn’t a better work-life balance and he was getting contacted a lot with other companies who wanted him to consult. He began realizing he could spend a couple of months on one project, take some time off and do two or three weeks at another,” he says, adding the chief administrator’s position didn’t always create a good home-life balance, often being part of a “fishbowl” environment where everyone from council to members of the public are watching you.

Jakubeit says the city received 112 applications for the CAO position, with resumes coming from all over Western Canada and many from Central Canada.

“Peter made the short list. We were excited and happy with what he was bringing to the table, and what his track record was. His references were very strong, and he is excited to be here,” Jakubeit says.

“He was working his way up the ladder by being more than politically astute. He was willing to be a leader, be bold, and understood the realities of municipal government, so knows how to navigate politically dicey waters, understand the (Local Government Act) and being in the public eye, ensuring the community is engaged and how we can find a balance to move forward. He’s innovative and brings a sense of energy to his conversations,” added the mayor.

Jakbeit doesn’t think Penticton faces any extraordinary challenges when it comes to hiring for the top job, noting job pressures to balance the budget or deal with contentious issues are similar in other cities.

“For years there has been this mantra that ‘Penticton is our little secret, it’s good enough the way it is, don’t tell anyone,’ and we’re now coming to realize our growth has been stagnant, and we really need to be thinking about increasing our tax base and deal with our aging infrastructure,” he says.

"At the same time, no one wants a reduction in service or an increase in taxes; those two items aren’t symbiotic. So it’s difficult to address that. Staff and council in the past have tried to avoid that predicament of paying more and getting less, or always by trying to appease the vocal minority, because for being a small group they seem to have a large voice,” he says.

Moving forward, Jakubeit says he hopes Weeber will build an effective team that will empower the city’s many talented staffers to become leaders in their own right.

“Leadership shouldn’t be in the top echelon. We want to take a person that has that philosophy and try and bestow that on staff, and improve our corporate culture,” Jakubeit says.


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