Ted Swabey was thrown right into the deep end.
Not only has the new chief administrative officer for the City of Maple Ridge already faced the contentious issue closing the city’s only indoor pool for a year, he has also been part of discussions about borrowing $110 million for new recreation facilities.
And he’s just starting his third week on the job.
“It feels like he’s always been there,” Mayor Nicole Read said of the new CAO. “He’s hit the ground running, and he’s a great fit for the team.”
Swabey had barely taken his coat off on Dec. 1, when city hall launched into three days of budget sessions, but the veteran civil servant said those busy times were a great kickoff to his new job.
“I think it was the best time to start – right at the beginning of business planning.”
In that process, he and council heard each department head talk about their plans for the coming year, and he got a chance to see councillors in action, as they asked questions of staff. It gave him a great overview of the workings of city hall.
The presentation of the city’s financial plan included a funding strategy that would allow the city to borrow up to $110 million for arenas, parks and a new aquatic facility.
“Right away, I was in a world where council is in the mode of doing things,” he said, and that challenge makes for exciting times for a CAO.
On Thursday, council told staff to begin the public process for the new parks and recreation investments.
Swabey has some experience with this kind of buildout. He comes from Nanaimo, and the island city was going through a similar phase in the 1990s, when its council built rinks, a new theatre not unlike the ACT, and a conference centre.
He started as a planning technician in Nanaimo 26 years ago, and held various positions as he worked his way up to CAO.
Swabey said Paul Gill, Maple Ridge manager of corporate and financial services, was tasked with putting together a strategy to fund the new construction, and has put together “a very solid plan.”
He said it should be “fantastic times” for the city, and the new investment would make Maple Ridge an even more attractive place in the future.
Part of the attraction of Maple Ridge for Swabey is the outdoor adventure it offers.
He calls himself “a huge outdoor enthusiast” who likes cycling – both mountain biking and road racing, and he’s a runner who has completed six marathons – including the Boston Marathon in 2000.
He’s off to a fast start as CAO, after replacing Jim Rule, who retired in May.
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.
Swabey said he is impressed with the city hall staff, finds a council where everyone shares common goals, and sees a community that is engaged with its municipal government.