RDN loses its boss

Paul Thorkelsson is leaving the RDN to take the CAO position in Saanich

Regional District of Nanaimo CAO Paul Thorkelsson announced his resignation Wednesday after nine years with the RDN, three as CAO.

“I don’t leave this group without great difficulty,” he told The NEWS by e-mail. His resignation is effective Dec. 9.

Thorkelsson, 50, confirmed he will be going to work for another local government organization but remained tight lipped about that location. Wednesday morning, the District of Saanich issued a news release saying by “unanimous decision” Thorkelsson has been hired as their new CAO effective Jan. 4, 2016.

The RDN executive committee will meet this week to discuss filling the CAO position. It is unclear at this time who will act as an interim CAO in the meantime.

“This is an amazing organization to work with, with a management and staff team that is second to none,” Thorkelsson said about the RDN.

“While the community may not always recognize it the RDN does, and continues to do, and will continue to do great work in the interest of the community — which in no small part is the direct result of the quality and dedication of the people that work here.”

Regional district chair Joe Stanhope said Thorkelsson will be missed.

“He’s a great CAO — probably one of the best in B.C. in my opinion — and will certainly be missed,” Stanhope told The NEWS from sunny California on Wednesday. “The RDN is a fairly large regional district… it (CAO) is a big job, a key job and we need a strong person to take on that role.”

Stanhope said the regional district will soon be starting a country-wide search for a new CAO.

“It’s a very important job and we will certainly take our time to get the best candidate from across Canada,” he said.

“In all our interactions, Paul consistently sent the message that he had the best interests of the organization at heart,” said RDN director Bill Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay/Bowser. “He has had a significant influence on the RDN… I wish him all the best in the future.”

Thorkelsson became CAO in 2012 and since then has provided leadership on key initiatives including the recently completed Operational and Efficiency Review which took a unique inside-out approach to core review. He has also worked diligently to enhance relations with First Nations in the region and provided guidance through the collective bargaining process, creating stronger ties to the union.

Prior to becoming CAO, Thorkelsson was the General Manager of Strategic and Community Development for the RDN. In that role he led several innovative projects to completion including the complete review and adoption of a new Regional Growth Strategy, two Official Community Plan reviews and updates, three Neighbourhood Plans, the Affordable Housing Strategy, the Green Building Policy and the Sustainable Development Checklist.

Prior to joining the RDN, he was Manager of Building Inspection for the City of Nanaimo.

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