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Building team first priority for new RDN chief

As he prepares to step into the permanent role of chief administrative officer for the Regional District of Nanaimo next week, Paul Thorkelsson says one of his first priorities is building a stellar management team to continue working in a positive direction for the future.

“We’ve had a pretty tumultuous summer into the fall … we’ve had a number of retirements,” he said.

Thorkelsson, the RDN’s general manager of strategic and community development, served as interim CAO since September, after Carol Mason moved on to provide the same role for Metro Vancouver. In addition to overseeing his own replacement, Thorkelsson said there are a few other general manager positions to fill.

“The key thing for me in the short term is getting that senior management team back in full strength, and get people back in positions that we need to have.”

Thorkelsson said his decision to take on the CAO position was a natural progression of his career in local government and the logical next step.

Previously, he worked as manager of building inspection for the City of Nanaimo and has even sat on the other side of the boardroom table, as a municipal councillor for the Town of Creston. Thorkelsson was hired at the RDN six years ago.

“My focus previously was in the strategic and community development areas – the land-use planning, short range and long range, the regional growth strategy, development approvals and building permits,” Thorkelsson said. “Now it’s just broadened into all of the areas of the organization.”

The new CAO holds two master’s degrees – in architecture and public administration – and said he is excited for the challenges his new position will provide.

“Fundamentally, I’m committed to what the board’s been able to achieve in the RDN over the last six years that I’ve been here and I really want to be able see that continue,” he said.

“The good work of the RDN in the areas of long range planning, transit and solid waste management, recycling programs, the kitchen waste and organic diversion work, they’re all really important things and it’s those achievements that make this a great organization to work for and there’s more like that to work towards in the future.”

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