Parksville city council faces the most important decision of its time in office as it searches for a replacement for retiring chief administrative officer Fred Manson.
Luckily for the busy, part-timers who sit at the council table, Manson leaves a solid, professional base, a house that will not crumble — his leadership has provided a firm foundation.
Some might say the decisions surrounding the water treatment plant are the most important things this council will consider, but we disagree. The treatment of Parksville’s water has been mandated by Island Health — it’s not like the city can choose not to spend the taxpayers’ money on this project.
The hiring of a good CAO could have much longer lasting effects, as would the hiring of a less-than-stellar CAO.
Manson is leaving the city in good shape. Financially, the city is strong and, perhaps more importantly, it has a plan for the replacement of important infrastructure in the decades ahead. What’s more, Manson leaves this legacy despite dwindling financial help from senior governments and city councils that increasingly want to hold the line on tax increases. In Old Testament language, Manson has made bricks, and set the city up to make bricks way into the future, without straw.
Often, a leader is only as good as his lieutenants. As CAO, Manson is ultimately responsible for the hiring of all city employees. He’s done a good job in this regard too, again in a time of dwindling resources and the downloading of responsibilities from senior governments.
Reporters and editors like to write stories about government fat. We are not able to do that often, if at all, in Parksville — Manson has run a lean operation, mostly because he has to. Still, he seems to get the most out of his hires and that takes skill and a level of respect from department heads that is earned, not given.
City council will undoubtedly look for a new CAO that can earn that respect and keep the good ship Parksville on its fiscally-responsible path. What else should it look for in a new CAO? Councillors should gather that information from constituents. Whomever is chosen, it’s our hope the new CAO will not treat the politicians who come and go as a nuisance (Manson didn’t) — our democratic structure depends on the people’s representatives making the key decisions, not unelected staff.
We wish Fred Manson the best in whatever he decides to do with the many years he has left and thank him for a job well done.
— Editorial by John Harding