Customer service is paramount for a municipality, says Corian Speaker. It’s the reason she decided to take on the role at the helm of the District of Squamish.
“I like the direction the organization is going,” the municipality’s new chief administrative officer (CAO) said.
The Creston native stepped into the position early this month, replacing Kevin Ramsay who is now city manager of Port Moody. She has more than two decades of experience working with municipal governments. Speaker started in Kimberly, followed by a seven-year stint in Cranbrook, three years in Prince Rupert and eight years as CAO in Elkford.
“I knew I wanted to get to a larger municipality,” Speaker said.
For the past three weeks, Speaker has sat through back-to-back meetings with district and community officials. When not introducing herself to municipal staff and residents, she’s poring through binders of information on municipality projects.
“The first few months [are] going to be a huge learning curve,” Speaker said.
Squamish’s municipal characteristics sit in between Elkford and Prince Rupert, she noted. When Speaker first moved to the Rocky Mountain town of Elkford she wasn’t intending to stay for long. But the job was fun, she said, and the community was well supported by the coal industry.
Prince Rupert was a different story. Speaker was the chief financial officer for the city during its financial meltdown — when its local pulp mill defaulted on its taxes. It was an extreme challenge, Speaker said. She worked 14-hour days, seven days a week for nine months to keep the municipality afloat.
“It wasn’t great, but we got through it,” she said.
Squamish represents healthy opportunities in growth, Speaker said. The community is facing a transition period, but isn’t in a dire financial position, she said. Speaker said she sees her job as making sure the municipal moves through its changes in a stable manner; balancing needs with long-term vision and goals. This includes the district’s branding, she noted.
A CAO is a leadership role, Speaker said, who also wears the hat of the first vice president of the Local Government Management Association. It’s about managing and understanding people, she added. The leadership world is evolving, Speaker said, noting it’s no longer top down. Speaker, who has a Twitter account, noted social media is aiding the movement.
“You want to be a part of that,” she said, adding it is a great way to get the district’s message out.
Customer service is one of Speaker’s primary focuses. She said she views her role as a resource sounding board and aims to get the right information and recommendations to council.
“My role is to ensure that staff is bringing things forward,” Speaker said.