Update: Nanaimo council names Samra as city manager

NANAIMO – Tracy Samra, interim city manager since November of last year, has been given the permanent position.

Tracy Samra will lead the City of Nanaimo as its first female city manager.

Samra has been chosen to permanently fill the top bureaucrat position, becoming the first woman and aboriginal to hold the city manager title.

The decision was made last week and is expected to be announced at a council meeting tonight (March 7).

Samra has been acting as interim city manager since mid-November when her predecessor, Ted Swabey, resigned to take a chief administrative officer position at the City of Maple Ridge.

It’s the first time Samra will hold a city manager position in civic government.

Civic politicians say she brings energy to the position, is collaborative and has knowledge and experience of all levels of government.

Coun. Wendy Pratt said Samra’s skills are applicable to the role. Sometimes it’s refreshing to bring in somebody with a slightly different perspective, said Pratt, who feels Samra proven herself over the last few months. She’s impressed with the new manager’s performance so far and called her both proactive and collaborative.

That she is a woman wasn’t a deciding factor for Pratt, but she considers it a bonus and a step forward for Nanaimo in parity and equity.

“We did have some strong candidates. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was the right choice for sure,” said Pratt. “I am delighted she is the new city manager. We’ve had challenges in the past year as everybody in this community knows and I see this as a really positive move forward.”

Pratt and Coun. Gord Fuller both see Samra as helping to develop or improve relationships, including with the Nanaimo Port Authority and First Nations.

There’s a desire of city council to partner with First Nations counterparts and develop meaningful relationships, said Pratt, who believes Samra can help lead that. Fuller said council has made a “fantastic” choice and one of the reasons why is because of Samra’s experience with all levels of government, including First Nations.

“She’s going to be a huge asset to the city,” said Fuller, who says she’ll bring new ideas and new ways of working with people.

Mayor Bill McKay said it’s nice to get somebody installed in the position “finally, permanently.”

He considers it a benefit that Samra has been on the job since November.

“There’s absolutely no training to do,” he said. “She’s had her three months.”

Samra, a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, has more than 20 years experience in the federal, provincial and aboriginal public sectors, and for six months in 2013 was the corporate officer and legislative services manager position at the City of Nanaimo.

Samra said in a press release that she is “humbled by the overwhelming support from council,” and she’s excited to support council’s vision for the community.

It’s not known how many city managers were shortlisted. Interviews happened in late-February.

– With files from Karl Yu, Nanaimo News Bulletin.