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NEWSMAKERS: Swabey begins tenure with shakeup

Ted Swabey took over as city manager in Nanaimo and brought in sweeping changes within his first four months on the job. - News Bulletin file
Ted Swabey took over as city manager in Nanaimo and brought in sweeping changes within his first four months on the job.
— image credit: News Bulletin file

Within four months of taking  the helm at city hall, Nanaimo’s new top bureaucrat has steered the municipality into a major shakeup, a new budget process and governance changes. It’s why Ted Swabey has cracked this year’s top five most notable people.

Swabey took over as the manager of the city’s 650 employees in September after advancing through the ranks of city hall for the past 23 years. He was promoted from general manager of community safety and development when longtime bureaucrat Al Kenning retired earlier in the year.

Within two days of stepping into the new position, he helped introduce city council to a new approach to budgeting that allowed politicians greater scrutiny of service levels and spending early on in the financial planning process. He also announced plans to invest time into building relationships, change public perceptions around who’s in charge and potentially restructure city hall. His appointment had come on the heels of criticism that senior management had more power than council and a review that flagged negative internal issues as undermining attempts at good governance.

Fast-forward four months and the city is in the midst of a major shuffle, which is expected to wrap up this January. The move, which included two buyouts, department mergers and cuts to seven high-level positions, is aimed at cutting costs by $1 million each year and hitting the “reset button” on how the organization met the needs of the community and council, according to Swabey.

The manager has also been involved in the release of in camera information, which started this month and remains a recommendation of a recent governance review. Swabey ends the year with a mandate from council on priorities for other governance changes.

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