Mike Furey began his new job as Whistler’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sept. 12 last year, leaving his provincial gig to come to a municipality with a growing rift between staff and council that had lost the trust of the community it served.
In an Aug. 4 column for The Question, then-councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden had this for Furey: “Restoring a sense of teamwork and cohesion between council and the staff will be another important task for the new CAO.”
A year later, Furey feels he has accomplished just that.
“I think (council) has a lot of faith in the staff here and have indicated to me and stated publicly quite a lot of satisfaction with the quality and professionalism of the work that’s produced here. “We don’t always see eye-to-eye but that’s a healthy part of a relationship from my perspective,” he said.
Furey most recently served as the Assistant Deputy Minister with B.C.’s Ministry of Community, Sports and Cultural Development, and prior to that worked as Inspector of Municipalities for the province.
Bringing his ample knowledge of local and provincial government to the table, Furey was still surprised in his first municipal position as CAO.
“I find that things move a lot quicker here, so that’s really great that you can take on initiatives, do the analysis, work on it and move forward in a much faster fashion than the federal or provincial levels. People may find that quite a startling comparison because I’m sure they think that lots of things we do takes too long,” he said.
One of the many challenges facing the new CAO over the past year was the transitioning of an entirely new council, elected in November, into municipal life.
“One of the early (challenges) was that we had to upload a lot of information to them,” he said from municipal hall.
The Council Action Plan, released in February, was a major initiative spearheaded by Furey, aimed at providing council with a set of concrete goals for its three-year term.
Issues such as accountability, fiscal responsibility, service delivery, business development and community planning were all tackled in the document, which provides six, 12, 18 and 36-month goals for the muni to accomplish.
“We’ve really focused a lot of our work internally, looking at the internal workings of the organization and getting some new systems in place. Part of that begun with the Council Action Plan, where the council sort of set out what their priorities are,” said Furey.
Following the new council’s request to make the municipality more efficient, Furey “did a number of reviews on the organizational structure, starting with the senior management team,” he said, reducing the muni’s number of general managers from five to three.
Continuing along that line, Furey also conducted a middle-management review at municipal hall, identifying further areas for savings and staff reductions.
Evidenced by Tuesday’s (Sept. 4) municipal quarterly financial report, Whistler’s first in years, the CAO also prioritized the need for transparency, a major concern that came out during last year’s local election campaign.
“We put some systems in place in terms of approvals and expenditures for funds that have more accountability and transparency,” said Furey.
With a council that seemingly works well together — the group has yet to cast a dissenting vote during council meetings in its first nine months — it appears that Furey has gotten a successful first year under his belt.
“We’re really happy, Mike, that you have joined us and you’re still with us. We look forward to several more years of service with you on staff,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden during Tuesday’s council meeting.
However, Furey’s salary as CAO is one thing that has yet to be disclosed publicly. Usually the position’s remuneration would be included in the annual Statements of Financial Information report. But with only four months on the job in the last fiscal year, Furey’s salary did not reach the threshold of $75,000 to be included in the report.
Bill Barratt, who retired last year, was listed in the report as earning $215,988.
The community will have to wait until next year’s SOFI report, usually released in June, to find out how much Furey earns.