Maple Ridge has new boss

Ted Swabey understands his role as chief administrative officer

Maple Ridge’s new top administrator starts Dec. 1.

Ted Swabey moves over from Nanaimo, where he was the city’s chief administrative officer.

He replaces Jim Rule, who retired in May.

“I’m really big on ensuring people understand that the city manager’s role is to advise and make recommendations and council decides and sets the direction,” Swabey said Monday.

“I’m council’s employee. They set the direction. I provide them with the information and the recommendations and I align the staff and the work plans to best meet the objectives that council wants to achieve.”

First, he has to build some bridges. As a newcomer to Maple Ridge, he wants to build trust with staff and council.

Swabey started with Nanaimo 26 years ago as a planning technician on the front counter. He steadily moved up the ladder from serving as director of planning, to general manager of community safety and development, to CAO.

“He is a consummate professional with extensive experience in the delivery of diverse services within a complex municipal setting,” Mayor Nicole Read said.

“We are very pleased to have Ted join us and lead the City of Maple Ridge team.”

Before coming to B.C., Swabey was a planning consultant in Guelph, Ont., and also worked as a commercial property manager in Toronto.

He was born and raised in Ottawa and has a bachelor of arts degree in geography from the University of Guelph.

He said one challenge in today’s cities is to be customer focused.

“I think you always have to be mindful of ensuring that the taxpayers perceive value in the services that you deliver. That’s the one big test, of course.”

The recent decision by Maple Ridge council to end the joint-use recreation agreement with Pitt Meadows is one example of council deciding that the city is better serving taxpayers by running the recreation department independently.

Swabey describes himself as a relationship builder.

“I’m interested in people and building relationships and looking for partnerships, and things you couldn’t do on your own but can do in partnerships.”

In Nanaimo in 2013, he reorganized city hall, cut staff and saved a million dollars a year. That was based on council’s strategic plan and was well thought out, based on council’s priorities.

“But I have no view at all in terms of what I may or may not do,” in Maple Ridge.

That was after strong growth in Nanaimo in the 1990s, when facilities were being built. Maple Ridge is now in that phase.

Swabey said his salary will be within the range council expected, but wouldn’t give the exact number, saying that should come from the city.

The previous CAO made about $250,000 a year.

A city leadership looked across the country during the hiring process.