James Ridge (far right) has just announced he's packing it in as Vancouver's Deputy City Manager
It’s official, the City of Vancouver is now looking for a new Deputy City Manager. James Ridge has just tendered his resignation and is heading off to a new position at UBC as Assistant Vice President & Registrar. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise to our many CityCaucus.com readers that yet another senior manager has quit his job at City Hall, but this resignation is very significant.
Firstly, James is not part of the ‘'old guard'’ as the Mayor and Vision Vancouver so aptly refer to them behind the scenes. Quite the contrary. Ridge has only worked with the City for about a couple of years. He was hired after former Deputy City Manager Brent MacGregor retired.
James is probably one of the most capable senior public servants in this province, bar none. You need only ask his former employer Mayor Richard Walton in North Vancouver to validate this statement. I’ve heard from multiple sources Mayor Walton felt that Vancouver really snagged a big fish when they lured Ridge over to the City. Well, now he’s gone and I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that deteriorating conditions and the continued politicization of the public service played a major role in his early departure.
It’s no secret that since the new City Manager was hand-picked by the Mayor to take over from Judy Rogers, the corporate management team have been grumbling. Some more loudly then others.
What makes Ridge’s departure all the more significant is that word has it he actually took a pay cut to get the heck out of 12th and Cambie. There aren’t a lot of people with that kind of integrity and commitment to public service who would do that kind of thing.
It’s hard to understand why the Mayor and his apologists (you know who you are) continue to bury their collective heads in the sand and say “all is okay” at Silly Hall while Rome continues to burn before the world arrives here.
One can only hope that Laurie Best and her team won’t have the audacity to mask over this resignation with yet another Happy Planet news release about how Ridge is moving on to have more time to play with his grandchildren.
I only had the chance to work with Ridge for a short while, but he is a class act and this is a big loss for Ballem, and what remains of her team. Sources say that Ballem hoped appointing Ridge as the City's new Chief Information Officer might have given him an incentive to stick around. That strategy obviously didn't work.
One has to ask if all these resignations are actually going to start to cost taxpayers in ways they hadn’t even thought of? For example, will people applying to fill vacant positions at City Hall now demand a “politicization premium” on top of their base salary? After all, given how many people have been coming and going at the senior ranks of City Hall, would you blame them if they saw these positions as merely temporary gigs?
It truly saddens me to see that after years of stability in the upper ranks of City Hall, everything is coming apart at the seams. There is at least one more member of the corporate management team that's had enough and is about to pull the rip cord as well.
Regardless if you agree with me or not, I believe stability at the upper end of the City’s public service has helped to create one of the best, most livable cities on the planet. While you and I toil away at our jobs, the City’s public service quietly attend countless public hearings, consultations sessions, workshops, meetings, webinars etc...to help plan the future of Vancouver. They may not always get everything right, but you have to acknowledge their work has contributed to making Vancouver one heck of a great city.
By firing Judy Rogers last November, the Mayor became a hero in some quarters. Many said he appeared “decisive” and set a tone right off that he was the man in charge. On both counts they were right.
What the Mayor failed to realize is that by firing Rogers in the way he did, then immediately blaming the public service and his NPA predecessors for the Olympic Village “debacle”, he set off a chemical reaction that he can no longer contain. Like any good chemical reaction, there still remains a lot of heat, smoke and fire left to make its way through the system before all the dusts begins to settle.
I’m sure I speak on behalf of many City employees when I say good on you James...and best of luck in the future. You will be missed. The City’s loss is UBC’s gain.
UPDATE: Vancouver Sun reports this, so does CBC, The Province and CKNW. Frances Bula says it's "not a total surprise." The Straight's Charlie Smith see Ridge's departure as an opportunity to bring diversity to management.