Vancouver Island’s most populated municipality is parting ways with its chief administrative officer.
The District of Saanich announced in a press release Tuesday that it has “decided to end its relationship” with CAO Paul Thorkelsson. His last day was Nov. 29.
No reason for the decision was mentioned in Saanich’s press release and when asked about it, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes did not answer but instead thanked Thorkelsson for his time.
“Council has decided to move on from our current CAO and we had Paul with us for six years and we wish him well,” said Haynes.
Asked whether the decision was one that had been in the making for some time or had come about in a relatively short period of time, Haynes said it came after “careful deliberations.”
“As mayor, I can say that this council doesn’t rush with these types of decisions,” said Haynes. “It was taken with care and we wish Paul well in his future endeavours.”
The municipality’s director of building, bylaw, licensing and legal services, Brent Reems, has been appointed by Saanich councillors to serve as the municipality’s acting chief administrative officer starting in early December.
Haynes said the district is now going through a process to “ensure there is a seamless delivery of service” to residents. He also said the municipality will immediately begin recruitment for an interim CAO, who would start in February or March and hold the position until after the 2022 municipal election in October.
“The interim CAO would be with us until after the next election because we think it is a service to the incoming council that they would have a key role in choosing the next full-time CAO,” he said.
One of the reasons, said Haynes, for allowing the new council to choose a full-time CAO is because there is typically a higher turnover of municipal employees after an election.
“In the marketplace of municipal employees, there is quite a lot of turnover of staff after elections for a variety of reasons,” he said. “So, we think there will be the most opportune time to find an exceptional candidate a year out from now.”
Prior to being hired by the District of Saanich, Thorkelsson had served as the Regional District of Nanaimo’s chief administrative officer from 2012 until his departure in 2016.
Thorkelsson, in a statement posted on his LinkedIn profile, thanked the district for their time.
“Thank you to #saanich staff for your commitment and support over the past 5 11/12 years. Keep doing great things!” he wrote.
Thorkelsson’s salary in 2020 was $288,176, according to records available on the municipality’s website and it is unknown how much severance he will receive.