Nanaimo's interim CAO aims to rebuild trust, bring experience on homelessness issue

By Dominic Abassi
July 11, 2018 - 6:10pm Updated: July 11, 2018 - 8:32pm

Jake Rudolph toured City Hall, meeting with staff and media on Wednesday.Dominic Abassi/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — His contract is only eight months long, but Nanaimo's new interim chief administrative officer has several years of City Hall turmoil to untangle.

Despite the tall order, Jake Rudolph seemed excited and confident about the challenge ahead as he toured City Hall and met with staff and media Wednesday morning ahead of his first official day on the job next Monday.

Rudolph said there's a high awareness of Nanaimo's political plight elsewhere in the province, something he considered long and hard before applying for the position.

"Anybody that's involved in municipal government in B.C. knows about Nanaimo, it's fair to say. It's been watched closely...And it's something that's not been good," he said. "I'm not coming with any of that baggage, I'm only coming with a willingness to give it the best I can to support the needs of Council and the organization."

He said the interview process with Council was "comforting" and he felt they were looking for someone to come in and help. "My instincts are telling me this is something I can do."

Rudolph, 62, said he's nearing the end of his career after parting ways with the City of Abbotsford earlier this year. He served over four years in Abbotsford as deputy city manager, a role he took after spending 13 years as the chief administrative officer in Pitt Meadows.

He said the size of the organization and the position of Nanaimo as a young, high growth community is a nice fit given his past experience. Rudolph also felt he could be an asset in the pending transition period following October's election, noting he worked through four election cycles in Pitt Meadows.

A key part of Rudolph's job will be restoring trust all around City Hall, with staff, councillors, and citizens.

Rudolph said it will be incumbent on him to live by his word and ensure the administration and himself are accountable.

"If you don't have trust, you don't have much. If there's a deep-rooted lack of trust, that's not going to turn overnight. You have to demonstrate it...I think building trust is a fundamental premise, all the way through. Not only the citizens but staff will need to build some trust with me."

On top of supporting staff and stabilizing the environment at City Hall, Rudolph will be tasked with the tackling one of the largest homeless encampments the province has ever seen.

That won't be a new experience, as he was the lead staff member dealing with a similar situation in Abbotsford.

The City will head to court next week, hoping a judge will grant them an injunction to remove the roughly 200 people camping on downtown waterfront land.

Rudolph said whatever the judge decides, that's only the beginning of the City's work in addressing the issue.

"The unfortunate thing that goes with this is you're not solving the problem, you're just moving it. So how do you get to the place where you're starting to address the fundamental reasons why there's so many people living there."

The addition of a homelessness coordinator position and the creation of a homelessness committee were pivotal pieces to making progress in Abbotsford, Rudolph said, noting it's his job to ensure the City is getting the help it needs from outside agencies and senior levels of government.

"The City is not in the game of delivering social services, that's not part of the mandate in this province and cities are typically not great at doing that."

Rudolph's annual salary will be around $212,000, pro-rated over the term of his eight-month contract. He said he's currently looking for a rental in Nanaimo and will maintain a home in the Lower Mainland, where his wife works.

He didn't speculate on his future beyond the end of his contract in March 2019.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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