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Media Release - Retiring Chief Administrative Officer looks forward to remaining in Powell River

December 14, 2018
Retiring Chief Administrative Officer looks forward to remaining in Powell River
Sitting in his barren office, retirement day fast approaching, Mac Fraser still has a sign on his wall to remind him of how work is best accomplished. The sign reads: To go fast, go alone. To go far, go with others.
Having spent six years as the Chief Executive Officer (CAO) of the City of Powell River, and mindful of the imperative on his wall, Fraser has built strong relationships with staff and City Council members and has made the effort with others with the objective of going far. Reflecting on his career, distance has been covered with others here in the City of Powell River.
“People here, first and foremost, have a sense of service to Powell River,” Fraser said. “Once you’ve got that, the rest is just easy.”
Fraser originally came to Powell River to work as the CAO for what is now known as the qathet Regional District. A year and a half into the term, the opportunity to become Powell River’s CAO presented itself and he successfully applied.
Fraser previously lived on Vancouver Island. He was director of land use planning services with the Islands Trust for four years when he was hired here. Previous to that he was CAO of the Village of Cumberland.
He was actually standing on Powell River soil looking for recreation property when the opportunity to work here manifested itself. He and his wife Doreen had been spending time in the Powell River area visiting family and were looking at a place to buy.
“We were standing on the property when I got a call from a municipal head hunter saying that he had my name on a job in Powell River that would be a perfect fit for me, which turned out to be with the regional district,” Fraser said. It was the beginning of the last chapter of his career in public service, which started with a career in the military for the first 20 years of his working life.
“I retired from the military in the Comox Valley and got into local government as a place to start,” Fraser said. “I was a military engineer so the transition to becoming a municipal engineer was pretty straightforward. I left the military with the idea that I was going to be spending 10 years doing something in the Comox Valley so my kids would be from there. Very quickly, I came to love local government.” He has worked for local governments ever since.
In terms of his time as CAO in Powell River with the two governments, Fraser said the experience has been fulfilling.
“It’s invigorating when one can make a difference,” he said. “It’s a bit taxing when emotion overcomes rationale with the customers, but it’s understandable, and it’s been my job to help them move from pure emotion to some blend of emotion and rationale. I think some of my greatest enjoyments have been helping irate clients become active, dedicated citizens.”
He’s also brought perspective to Council deliberations here. Previous to when Fraser took over as CAO for the regional district, he had experienced fractured infighting among local governments in the Comox Valley for a number of years. Fraser said that in Powell River, sometimes when Council meetings adjourn, the Councillors gather up their papers and they’ll say, “that was contentious.”
“I guess I’ve said it enough that they know it’s coming, indicating they need to get out more, because it is not contentious here,” Fraser said. “It is not contentious comparatively because of the people serving in Powell River.”
In terms of his affiliation with City of Powell River Council, Fraser said this is the finest group of politicians that he’s ever had the honour to work with.
“I’ve worked with, directly, probably 50 or 60 local government politicians,” Fraser said. “Our Council really cares about the community. They can come at issues from different angles, but they care.
“It’s the same thing with staff. The vast majority of people I’ve had the honour to work with have chosen their community before they found their job. They have a sense of community. A lot of local government employees elsewhere move about to different jobs, particularly in the Lower Mainland and Lower Vancouver Island. The great advantage they have is the family stays still throughout their careers. However, they don’t have a sense of community for their employers. In fact, many chose to work and live in different jurisdictions intentionally. I think that’s a shame.”
It has been an honour for Fraser being senior advisor to City Council and he has enjoyed the interaction and the things he’s been able to help them accomplish. For his interaction with staff, it’s a wonderful job in that he gets to help support some fine professionals.
Indicating the importance of having a great foundation of human resources, Fraser said there is an expression about riding on the shoulders of giants. “I’ve had the honour to work with 200 really good people, where all you have to do is listen, understand and support.
“There is strength everywhere in the city organization here, largely again, through people who care,” he said.
Fraser and senior staff have been supportive of employees that want to do well.
“I’ve always gone on the premise that I don’t think anyone comes to work initially not wanting to do a good job,” he said. “Unfortunately, in organizations, often with the best of intent, the organization or bureaucracy will begin to round the edges and dull the enthusiasm of new employees. That’s a big thing we continue to work on here. Something I’m quite happy with is the way we keep evolving, changing and improving, and that’s because of the support network.”
There is some natural tension because it’s a unionized workplace but there’s a great relationship between the city and the Canadian Union of Public Employees and International Association of Fire Fighters.
“It does not mean the parties agree on everything but it’s a healthy respect,” Fraser said. “There’s a communications process that works between us. I’ve always worked in a collective bargaining environment and I believe in it. Unchecked union or management would perhaps unintentionally do something not right. The checks and balances work here in Powell River. Everyone has Powell River in mind first of all.”
Moving toward retirement, Fraser said there are aspects of the job that he won’t miss but he’ll miss everyone in it. He’s looking forward to becoming a fully active citizen, he intends to volunteer and would like to explore the back country, which he has not done in his time in Powell River. He wants to have the time to see his grandnieces and nephews here and to be able to travel across Canada to see his children.
Fraser wants to say thanks to everyone he has come to know and work with in Powell River. “I’m excited about spending the rest of my life active in the community,” he said.
“This is the jackpot to end up retired in Powell River. The true test is, seven and a half years later, I’m getting ready to spend the rest of my life here.”

Event date: 
Friday, December 14, 2018 - 4:30pm


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