New city manager launches significant shake up

City manager Ted Swabey has announced a reorganization of city hall that includes department mergers and administration changes.

Nanaimo’s new top bureaucrat has offered two buyouts and axed seven high-level positions in a major city hall shake-up.

City manager Ted Swabey announced the internal restructuring at an open meeting Monday, calling it a chance to cut costs and hit the “reset button” on how the organization meets the needs of the community and council.

The reorganization – anticipated to be one of the largest at city hall in recent history – will save Nanaimo an estimated $1 million annually by the second year and help officials better address strategic priorities and succession planning, according to Swabey.

As part of the change, the city will see a new cultural division and the merger of several departments. The leadership team will also be dissolved to make way for direct reporting between senior employees and the city manager’s office; seven high-level positions will be cut and two directors offered buyouts. The terms of the buyouts are still being negotiated.

Swabey says the shuffle will add younger employees to the management deck. With half of the senior management team eligible to retire in the next five years, the new faces are the next wave of top-level city staff and part of its succession strategy, he said.

The changes are also expected to help line up the city’s internal structure with four main priorities in the strategic plan, including cultural vitality.

Swabey said people might have questioned how the city is addressing culture and whether it was considered important because they couldn’t see where it fit into the organization.

Now, there will be an independent culture and heritage department in place for two years.

“Every time a renewal is needed in an organization, a new manager comes in or a new council or a new strategic plan, it’s a very common part of the process to make sure your structure aligns with your priorities,” Swabey said.

“I am very excited about it … there are opportunities for us and staff to be engaged and enthusiastic about the direction we are going.”

The changes are coming three months after Swabey took over the helm at city hall and are expected to roll out between now and the end of January.

The highlights include sport tourism handed off as a new mandate of Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation and a new independent culture department headed by Suzanne Samborski, previously the city’s senior manager of recreation and culture.

There will also be a new social planning and protective services branch and parks and culture will merge with an expanded environmental section and a new enforcement arm.

Ten per cent of the management staff has been reduced, including the general manager of community safety and development. The shift leaves only Tom Hickey, general manager of community services and Ian Howat, general manager of corporate services, in charge of a team of eight directors.

Andrew Tucker, director of planning, and Per Kristensen, director of information technology will be taking buyout packages but according to the municipality, the majority of the positions axed will be by attrition.

“[This is] about trying to cut costs in areas that we had the ability to streamline,” Swabey said.  “Only time will tell whether the cuts are too deep or whether it’s the right amount of management staff and [if] we can deliver the services and communication as effectively as council and the community needs based on the staff we have.”

Nanaimo city council endorsed the plan in a closed council meeting last week. Mayor John Ruttan calls it progressive and while city council didn’t specifically ask for the reorganization, he said it wanted to cut costs and looked at senior management as a way to do it.

Just Posted

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Nanaimo residents on edge of city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Nanaimo artist Dave Stevens is displaying paintings inspired by arbutus trees and the Millstone River at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library from now until the end of fall. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo writer and artist’s work goes up at Harbourfront library

Dave Stevens presents work inspired by arbutus trees and the Millstone River

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

Stuffed toys, many with donations pinned to them, are piled in the Lions Pavilion at Maffeo Sutton Park at a vigil May 31 honouring the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered outside a residential school in Kamloops. (News Bulletin file photo)
Thousands donated to child and family service agency following Nanaimo vigil

Toys and money donated to Kw’umut Lelum child and family services

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

Most Read