Focus is on building solid relationships between Council, staff and community

Interim CAO arrives in Valemount

Dianne St. Jean

Interim CAO arrives in Valemount
Meet Ken Wiesner, Interim CAO for the Village of Valemount.

Wiesner took his position at the beginning of the month, and after only being in Valemount for a week, has already begun familiarizing himself with various sectors of the Village.

Wiesner’s goal is not simply to fill the gap as CAO until the Village hires someone to fill the position long-term, although that is part of his job; rather, his primary goal is to build a team that works well together. According to Wiesner, the Village is already at a good start. “I’m happy with the people here,” he says, “For a small municipality, you are well off.”

Wiesner brings with him more than thirty-five years’ experience in various levels of administration of which includes municipal/town administration, CAO and interim positions and directorships. He has done organization reviews as well as consulting. His forte is in building motivation and strong relationships to create dynamic work environments. He is a certified Franklin Covey facilitator for “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and in 2001 formed his own company, Wiser Group Consulting Ltd.

Part of the effort in building a good team means having a definition and good understanding of the role each person plays in a work environment, especially in governance.

“If everyone knows what their role is and it is defined, clearly defined, they can move forward,” states Wiesner. And how does he view the roles within a municipality?

“The position of Mayor should be respected,” Wiesner comments, adding that Mayor and Council are elected positions, so the people’s choice must be honoured.

“The Mayor and Council are in charge; they have one staff – that’s me,” he says. Wiesner goes on to explain that it is the role of the CAO to deal with the (Village) staff, and if there is a problem, then it is the responsibility of the CAO to deal with that. “It frees the Mayor and Council in representing those that elected them,” he says, adding, “They have a difficult job.”

Wiesner compares the roles in the levels of governance to guiding a boat, the boat being the community. “Elected officials are the pilots of the boat, and we as staff row the boat.”

According to his philosophy, while policies are important and have their place, they should be secondary.

“In real estate everything is ‘location, location, location’, whereas in governance it is ‘relationships, relationships, relationships.’ If you have that, you have (properly governed) policy.”

When asked about when an issue of policy arises, Wiesner responded, “We’ll put it to Council. Staff are doing their job when they follow the policy and bylaws of Council.”

Wiesner acknowledges there could be challenges when elections change the dynamics in a workplace which staff have already become accustomed to. “There is transition from one Council to the other. Administration needs to understand the dynamics of the job. The challenges are that the dynamics are always changing, especially with changes from election to election.” He notes that it is especially challenging when there have been difficulties within an administration that conflict or interfere with relationships, be it within the administrative or the business sector.

“I understand (the challenges) when you come in after someone has been let go, to deal with it.” His advice is to move on from the past.

Yet Wiesner also carries a contagious optimism from which he operates and through which he expects to see positive results.

Part of getting those results involves training people to know and understand their roles. Knowing one’s role empowers them to carry it out, but this has to be done in acknowledgment of the roles others play. It should not be a one-man show.

“Each individual has their strengths in their positions,” explains Wiesner, “but not one position is more important than the other.”

So while empowerment is important, training people to know how far they can or cannot go is also essential.

“If you step out of that, you are no longer empowered.”

Wiesner sums it up perfectly with the statement, “All of us are smarter than one of us.”

While his contract as Interim CAO is just until the end of December, he will stay the position to ensure that the Village of Valemount has a solid individual in place to take on the position of CAO on a permanent basis.

The next step toward that is to advertise for the position, in which Wiesner will facilitate in the process of finding the right fit. In the meantime, the Village is doing its best in moving forward with the process.

In a requested statement concerning Mr. Wiesner’s appointment, Mayor Jeannette Townsend said: “Mr. Ken Wiesner has been appointed Interim CAO for the Village of Valemount. The contract is for a period of three months. He was Council’s unanimous selection from eleven exceptionally qualified applicants. Mr. Wiesner was highly recommended by well-known, prominent professional people who are closely involved with Local and Provincial government in British Columbia. On behalf of the Council and Staff, it is my very real pleasure to welcome Mr. Wiesner to Valemount and to our municipal office where he has already made beneficial impacts with his positive and wise philosophical principles.”

If the hallmark of Wiesner’s input is any indication of what we can expect for the Village of Valemount in the future, the outcome is going to be good.