Two senior staff members who played key roles in much of the town’s day-to-day affairs are no longer employed by the District.
On Jan. 25, the District issued a statement to The Squamish Chief saying that both Gary Buxton and Chris Wyckham no longer work for the municipality.
Gary Buxton served as the general manager of community planning and infrastructure. His LinkedIn profile states he began his tenure at the District in December 2014.
The District said Buxton’s employment with the District of Squamish ended on Jan. 16, 2023.
Chris Wyckham was the director of engineering. His LinkedIn profile says he worked with the municipality starting in July 2016.
The District said Wyckham’s employment with the municipality ended on Nov. 21, 2022.
Their departure marks a big change, as the pair were top officials in the municipality and were regular fixtures during council meetings throughout the years.
The District’s statement did not give reasons for their departures — or say whether they were terminated or quit — citing privacy reasons. It did, however, note the people filling Buxton and Wyckham’s roles.
“The District has a strong depth of knowledge and expertise on staff, including in the portfolios of community planning, major and capital projects, engineering services, and sustainability,” wrote spokesperson Rachel Boguski.
“Sarah Baillie, P. Eng., C.Eng MICE, was promoted to the role of director of engineering on Jan. 4, 2023. Julie Wengi, director of human resources, is fulfilling the role of acting general manager to provide leadership support to the community planning and sustainability portfolio during the transition.”
Boguski said the staff changes were unrelated to the recent sanitary sewer emergency on Jan. 14.
The Squamish Chief reached out to both Buxton and Wyckham for comment, but did not get an immediate response from either of them.
Speaking about the general market for these kinds of jobs in municipalities, Andy Yan, director of SFU’s City Program, said that while such senior-level positions as these used to be life-long, things have changed.
A mass of baby boomers retiring has created a shortage of supply in people qualified for the types of jobs that involve running a municipality.
As a result, staff members with the right qualifications can be very mobile.
“I'm a board member of the Planning Institute of British Columbia and … job ads is a revenue centre,” said Yan. “Meaning that there are now so many people looking for staff from your beginner entry-level to your senior-level management. That is, there's a fluidity in the labour market right now that we haven't seen for decades.”
He said that this gives people many options to change jobs if they want.
He added that there are many municipalities roughly the size of Squamish or smaller, meaning these staffers will have a big pool to choose from.
According to his calculations, with a 2022 population of 23,652, the District of Squamish was one of 31 communities in British Columbia with between 10,000 to 25,000 residents.
However, he said that the big demand, coupled with the acute shortage of highly-skilled municipal bureaucrats, will resolve itself as millennials enter higher-level positions.
In the meantime, replacing people in such high-level positions can be tough.
Yan noted that there is always a break-in time for people assuming these roles.