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Interim CAO says Westlock County heading in right direction

But Pat Vincent says councillors will have some tough budget decisions to make this coming fall
WES- vincent interim CAO
Pat Vincent’s nearly six-month tenure at interim CAO for Westlock County comes to an end this week as permanent CAO Tony Kulbisky, 57, starts his six-year contract with the municipality Aug. 2.

WESTLOCK – In his last week in the big chair, Westlock County interim CAO Pat Vincent says the municipality is heading in the right direction, although he admits councillors will have some tough decisions to make regarding service delivery and the tax rate while deliberating Budget 2023 later this year.

Vincent’s nearly six-month tenure at the county ends this coming week as permanent CAO Tony Kulbisky, 57, starts his six-year contract with the municipality Aug. 2. Vincent, who counts 45-plus years of municipal government experience, including a three-month CAO stint at the county six years ago, said the municipality has made “incredible progress” during his tenure and gave kudos to both councillors and staff.

In addition to at least eight interim CAOs like Rick McDonald and Vincent, who’s filled the role since Feb. 9, plus assorted senior county admin, Westlock County’s seven permanent CAOs since the turn of the century are: Wyatt Glebe, Jim Squire, Edward LeBlanc, Peter Kelly, Duane Coleman, Leo Ludwig and Kay Spiess, who tendered her resignation March 7 after less than a year at the county and is now the CAO of Beaver County.

“I think our record over the past six months really speaks for itself and I’m truly satisfied in the achievements I’ve been able to accomplish. This council hasn’t been sitting idly by and I’m just so incredibly proud of their achievements. And the support I’ve gotten from staff since I’ve been here has been incredible, too,” said Vincent. “Truly they are my heroes. There are so many long-term staff here who have stayed with the county through all of the upheavals, and they will forever remain in my heart as heroes for sure.”

In his opinion, Vincent said there are three main goals that need to be addressed at the county and it all starts with a strategic plan which “they need to get on quickly.” While they vary from municipality to municipality, strategic plans are intended to be a guide that provides a municipality focus and purpose, with many calling a strategic plan their most important document as it shapes the organization, programs and services they provide.

Beyond, Vincent said Westlock County is like most rural municipalities with shrinking revenues and increased demand for services, noting the regional economic development committee, that counts membership from the county, town and village councils, is a good start toward broadening the tax base.

“From the strat plan it moves to economic development and where they want to go and what they want to accomplish with it,” he said.

Finally, he said councillors will ultimately have to address the county’s revenue challenges “we face for sure.” Vincent said July 26 that he had just finished the final draft of the citizen budget engagement survey, a document councillors will be discussing Aug. 9. He called the survey “important” and hopes “they get good feedback to help determine the future direction for the county.”

“Do people want a zero per cent increase, or do they want a 2.5 per cent increase or a three or even a five per cent bump? That question is in there. But prior to getting there in the survey we talk about the services and ask people how important those are to them. Ultimately, if you don’t want a tax increase, what services are you prepared to see cut? Council is dealing with the hard reality,” said Vincent. “I think you’ll be surprised by some of the questions they’ll be asking people. They’re getting to the heart of it, and I really admire them for that.” 

Vincent started his municipal career as CAO for Town of Elk Point in 1981 and stayed there until 1991. Following he served as CAO of the towns of Slave Lake and Beaumont and then led Parkland County from August 2007 until he officially retired Jan. 1, 2015. Following he started a municipal consulting business and served as interim CAO for Thorhild County, the Town of Olds, City of Chestermere, Woodlands County and County of Vermilion River as well as Westlock County in the summer of 2016 between the tenures of Coleman and Ludwig.

Now that’s he’s re-retired, Vincent plans on visiting his oldest son who’s the head golf pro in Radium, then will head back to his home in Beaumont and may “keep the door open” for another opportunity.

George Blais,

George Blais

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