The District of Sooke’s new chief administrative officer Norm McInnis comes to the position facing challenges that many would find daunting.
Following what was, if not an ignominious, then certainly an unusual departure of the district’s last CAO Teresa Sullivan in early 2018, the position was largely filled through a series of internal acting appointments.
Most recently the district hired interim CAO Don Schaffer, who worked with the council to address administrative functions, such as the timely issuance of building permits, that had apparently begun to founder.
McInnis, however, sees the situation as well within his wheelhouse, although he stops short of articulating a definite strategy for change.
“The truth is that (administrative) culture eats strategy for breakfast,” observed McInnis.
“We have a lot of work to do in building the corporate structure and making sure we have everyone pulling in the same direction. I know that all the people here are ready for that to happen.”
McInnis has a strong history of being able to accomplish just that sort of healthy corporate culture, according to his last employers in the city of Fernie.
“Norm brought many unique perspectives to Fernie,” said Mayor Ange Qualizza.
“His breadth of local government experience and commitment to strong leadership made the transition for our new mayor and council in 2018 seamless.”
Qualizza said McInnis’ enthusiasm for his community went far beyond his role with the city and extended to a series of volunteer commitments, all designed to make Fernie a more vibrant community.
That sentiment was echoed by Brad Parsell, the executive director of Fernie’s Chamber of Commerce.
“Norm was a critical part of the planning process in Fernie. We’re a resort community and Norm championed our community in the application for grants and in attracting business to Fernie at every opportunity.”
But Fernie was only the latest of McInnis’ CAO postings.
Following more than a decade heading up a series of non-profit community organizations, McInnis started a long career in local government when he became the CAO of Picture Butte, Alta. in 2001.
From there he moved on to Westlock and then Olds, both in Alberta.
He took the position in Fernie about three years ago, but is now looking forward to what he describes as the “last move of my career” to Sooke.
“My wife and family have been very supportive of me in my career, but I always promised that we’d end up here on the Island,” said McInnis.
“My wife’s parents live in Parksville and we have a son in Victoria and other relatives in Saanich, so coming to Sooke is perfect.”
McInnis said his new position is a challenging one, noting Sooke is a community experiencing some fundamental changes in character.
“There will always be some friction around change. My hope is that we will have robust, real debates as we go forward,” McInnis said.
“But those debates don’t have to be nasty. How we manage change and engage the community will make all the difference.”
McInnis started his new position on July 2.