Skip to content

SLRD names Whistler’s Heather Paul as its new top bureaucrat

Paul, who begins in the CAO role in January, has served as executive director of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre for the last four years
Heather Paul starts in her new CAO role on Jan. 15.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has hired a new Chief Administrative Officer, with Whistler’s Heather Paul slated to begin in the role in the new year.  

Paul is a familiar face in the region, having most recently served as the executive director of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) in Whistler for nearly four years. She previously worked for the Resort Municipality of Whistler for 16 years, primarily in her capacity as a systems analyst.

“I am excited to join the team at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District,” said Paul in an SLRD release. “The regional district is an important level of government, and a strong and powerful advocate and ally for the region.

I look forward to working with the dedicated professionals at the SLRD in advancing the work of the organization in support of the communities in the region.”

The SLCC has not yet announced a successor to Paul.

Paul’s credentials as a bridge builder were lauded in the release from the SLRD, which talked about the excellent relationships she had forged with both the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations, as well as various local, regional and provincial government partners.

“Heather brings tremendous leadership, strong relationships and a wealth of local knowledge to this role, and to the organization,” said SLRD board chair and Whistler Councillor Jen Ford in the release. 

The initial press release from the SLRD claimed Paul held an Executive MBA from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a detail that was complicated by Paul’s personal LinkedIn profile, which originally noted her as having an Executive MBA from five months of study as well as having completed an online "MBA Essentials" certificate from the LSE. An Executive MBA traditionally takes two years to acquire from other economics schools, and domestically costs at least $60,000. The MBA Essentials certificate, as offered by the LSE, is a 10-week, non-credit bearing program that costs £3,200 and is noted by the LSE website as not being the equivalent of an MBA.

In an email to Pique, an SLRD spokesperson confirmed Paul holds the MBA Essentials certificate, not an Executive MBA, and chalked up its initial press release to an administrative error on the district's part, based on Paul's LinkedIn. Paul's LinkedIn page has also been amended to remove reference to an Executive MBA since Pique asked about the inconsistency. 

SLRD board chair, Jen Ford, said the district was aware Paul did not possess an Executive MBA at the time of hiring, and that it did not impact its ultimate decision. 

“All of this was divulged,” she said, noting that the search for a new CAO was led by talent acquisition firm Leaders International, which completed all the necessary background checks and vetting of experience and education. “There is no concern from the hiring committee that we were misled.”

Asked why her LinkedIn originally listed the Executive MBA, Paul wrote in an email that it was an honest mistake. "I used ‘Executive’ assuming it was a universal language for immersive education and certificate learning in short sprints. Learning yesterday that Executive MBA stands alone as a degree, I removed that line from my LinkedIn. The certificate I earned is still listed on my profile," she said. "I wasn’t trying to be misleading, and I understand that even a mistake can be misleading. Ultimately, I own that, and the confusion this has caused. Since the day I decided to improve the future for myself and my family by changing careers, and with limited time and resources, I have relied on [the] Executive Education sector to increase my core skills while accepting every opportunity to learn on the job and in the community." 

Paul will be the fourth person to hold the title of CAO at the SLRD in recent years, following the retirement of long-time CAO, Lynda Flynn at the beginning of 2020.

The most recent search for a CAO at the regional district began in July 2023, when previous CAO, Craig Dalton, vacated the position after about a year and a half in the role.

Nikki Gilmore has been serving as interim CAO, and will stay in that role until Paul’s slated start date, Jan. 15, 2024. Gilmore previously served as CAO for the Village of Pemberton.

The role of CAO has been especially busy for the last few years: Including Gilmore, all three previous holders of the role were handed big-ticket items as soon as they came onboard. Dalton started at CAOP with the regional district amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic recovery, while his predecessor, Melany Helmer, served a year during the pandemic itself. Gilmore’s tenure was dominated by the wildfires that ravaged the province and affected swathes of the SLRD over the summer.

The CAO is traditionally the top-paid employee of a municipal body. In 2022, Craig Dalton was paid $219,998.

The SLRD extends from Britannia Beach to beyond Lillooet, encompassing four municipalities and four rural areas with a combined population of a little more than 50,000 people.

This article has been updated since publication. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks