Posted by Esther Robson on Mar 12, 2019
Jake Rudolf was the speaker for this week. He works as the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Nanaimo. He stepped into this role during a difficult period for council where these was a variety of issues to deal with including a dysfunctional council, a lack of leadership, a number of broken relationships between the City and other stakeholders, and reputational issues. Mr. Rudolf described some of the challenges the City’s administration faced with continuing to operate and run services provided by the City during this period. The role of the CAO is not be involved in the City politics but instead to serve the needs of council.

The CAO is the only employee of the council and the City’s administration is meant to communicate to council through the CAO. In turn, the CAO is meant to communicate with council through the Mayor. Council generally views issues from a policy perspective and the overarching goals it has for the City. In contrast, the CAO and administrative staff often will be seeking clarification from council on how those goals through action plans and then will seek to implement those actions plans.

The City is in the business of providing a variety of services including utilities, protective services, quality of life services (e.g. parks and recreation), planning and development services (growth management), and information services. Regardless of issues that may arise for council the City’s administration has to continue to ensure those services can be provided. The City is responsible for approximately 3 billion in assets to help provide the services to a growing population.

One of the strengths that Mr. Rudolf has noticed with Nanaimo’s City administration is the tremendous resiliency of is senior managers. In 2018, the city’s administration implemented a new waste collection service for 28,000 properties, it handled discontent city, it continued to operate during a difficult council year and it handled a record year for development in Nanaimo.

In 2019, the key issues that Mr. Rudolf expects will face council and the City’s administration include the continued homelessness and housing issues, a new official community plan, replacement of Fire Hall #1, updating the business systems, updating the organization structure, and repairing broken relationships. The City hopes to have a draft strategic plan on its website on Monday which should show the strategic priorities of council. The next step in this process will be to create action plans associated with those priorities.

Brent Stetar was interest to know how behind Mr. Rudolf thinks Nanaimo is compared to some of the other cities he worked with. Brent indicated that it was his understanding that in the past Nanaimo was considered a leader in municipal administration and was wondering how much that has changed. Mr. Rudolf indicated that one of the main ways in which Nanaimo is considered a behind the times is in its records management which is greatly outdated and which will be one of the goals for this year. As well, the decentralization of decision making that has happened needs to be fixed and again this is a goal for the coming year. Mr. Rudolf indicated that the Lenorad Krog has communicated to council that a key goal for the council will be to leave a legacy of good governance that will build a strong foundation for future councils. Mr. Rudolf emphasized the importance of proper planning and implementation of goals to avoid quick decisions that may later be regretted.

Dave Connolly thanked Mr. Rudolf for coming to speak with us and presented a hand made pen to Mr. Rudolf. Dave indicated he was happy to hear of the positive direction that council appears to be taking and he hopes this will bring many Nanaimo residents closer to feeling proud of Nanaimo again.