Nanaimo city hall.

Nanaimo city hall.

City of Nanaimo not concerned over loss of 15 non-union staff

NANAIMO – Human resources director says turnover is natural in every organization.

Two former senior managers at the City of Nanaimo are bound for new postings, making the total exit of non-unionized employees 15 since the start of last year.

Forty-seven people have left Nanaimo’s municipal workforce in the past 17 months – among them 15 non-unionized workers, including managers, of whom six resigned and nine retired, according to the city’s director of human resources, John Van Horne.

The City of Nanaimo most recently said goodbye to Guillermo Ferrero, who resigned his post as director of legislative services, information technology and communication and will become the new city manager for the Town of Ladysmith this June. He was with the city since 2005.

Chris Jackson, former manager of legislative services, has also resigned to take a position with the City of Powell River, which he calls a great offer and a bit of a promotion. He’ll take on a broader portfolio and become the deputy chief administrative officer.

Van Horne has no concerns about the city’s retirements and resignations. There’s a natural turnover in every organization and in local government, he said, pointing out that there are more than 700 employees at the City of Nanaimo and people with 30 to 40 years of service. The day will come when they decide to move on.

While he said he always hates to see people go and the city is losing significant contributors, he does not anticipate a gap in knowledge. Corporate records remain at the city as do people with an “incredible” amount of corporate knowledge, according to Van Horne, who also said people are not disappearing off the face of the Earth and if they need to be contacted, are still within the local government sphere.

However, Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay considers the loss of 15 non-unionized employees since last year a “huge brain drain” and one that puts the municipality and council at a disadvantage. Those people had years of crafting their skills and cannot be replaced overnight, said McKay, who also said council relies on knowledge and experience and people coming into the positions “blind” or with limited knowledge will be at a disadvantage while they bring themselves up to speed.

“We’re not privy to any exit interviews, so we don’t know whether these are upward career moves or whether they are departures because they are not happy,” said McKay, who wants to know the “true reasons for these people departing” and if there are working conditions issues. “There will be some who will suggest that these are simply a case of folks trying to better their careers. I don’t completely believe that.”

Coun. Ian Thorpe said he is concerned about the loss of knowledge, but knows there are other good people coming up in the system and for some senior staff who have left, “they are on a career path.”

“We have one who left to become a city manager elsewhere, one who left to become an assistant city manager, one who left to become a director of parks and recreation and those are all good career moves for them,” he said.

When asked for an interview, chief administrative officer Tracy Samra responded with an e-mail statement that she is “honestly thrilled” for Suzanne Samborski, who resigned as director of strategic relations, culture and heritage, for a position with the District of Saanich, and Ferrero and Jackson and they absolutely deserve their promotions.

“Unfortunately those promotions weren’t readily available within the city,” she said.

Samra also stated that she cannot comment on what will happen with vacant positions because those decisions impact existing staff and it isn’t her “style to talk about important HR decisions and employee/labour relations through the media.”