Administration mess in Burns Lake

When I first moved to Burns Lake three years ago, I was very impressed by our mayor, council and chief administrative officer (CAO).

Having moved from a community in Saskatchewan where the municipality was not very transparent in their dealings with the media and the public, it was a relief to be working in Burns Lake.

I was particularly impressed by CAO Sheryl Worthing, who has never taken more than an hour to respond to an email, has always provided timely and detailed information when requested, and has always been extremely professional with the media and the general public (and from what I could see, to everyone else).

Lakes District News would not have been able to write so many important stories about our municipality if it hadn’t been for her commitment to be so transparent and efficient.

When I first moved to Burns Lake I was equally impressed by former Mayor Luke Strimbold’s humility, knowledge, ability to deal with the public and to move beyond council conflicts to address the issues that actually matter.

Strimbold’s ability to solve conflicts would come in handy at a time when conflict seems to be the best way to describe our current administration.

As of press time, Burns Lake’s CAO is still absent, and it is still unclear when or if she will return.

Meanwhile the village has no director of finance, and we’ve recently learned that the director of recreation, who had been hired earlier this summer, no longer works for the village.

Oh, and did I mention that councillor Johns Illes resigned last week?

Maybe all these events are just coincidence or bad luck. But after several resignations at the village office, one starts to wonder what is actually happening with this administration.

Council’s decision to appoint a different CAO every two weeks has drawn criticism from community members, including ex-mayor Bernice Magee, who said that asking current employees to assume the role of CAO is “very disturbing.”

It also seems clear that council has decided not to use the services of the Local Government Management Association of B.C., which connects municipalities with recently retired administrators, who may be available on an interim basis.

What we need right now is leadership, and a council that can move beyond petty conflicts to do the work that is desperately needed in this town – bringing inspiration and unity to diversify the local economy while working to address our many infrastructure problems.

Instead, this council has spent thousands of dollars and staff time on a recreation organizational review that still has not been released to the public, a team building exercise to improve council relations (which I’m guessing did not work), and an ambiguous anti-nepotism policy that might be considered discriminatory.

Meanwhile answers to the media have been limited and at times non-existent.

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