New CAO getting feel for Saanich

Paul Thorkelsson is learning the ropes at the district

The chance to come to Saanich was one new Chief Administrative Officer Paul Thorkelsson couldn’t resist.

Thorkelsson started on Jan. 4 and has made his way through most of the laundry list of ongoing Saanich items left from departed interim CAO Andy Laidlaw.

If the public is hoping for a major repeal of the Environmental Development Permit Area from staff, they’ll need to present a strong case to council. The 50-year-old has seen similar EDPA bylaws with the Regional District of Nanaimo, where he’s been since 2002 as a general manager before becoming the deputy CAO and then CAO.

“Rarely, did the [environmentally sensitive areas] cause any controversy that I can recall,” he said. “Garry oaks aren’t specific to Saanich, most Island communities take a high interest in their protection.”

A master architect by trade, Thorkelsson left Edmonton for the rockyscape of Creston, where he served a term on city council. From there he made it to the greenscape of the Island, where he’s been for over a decade.

Thorkelsson’s family is partway through transitioning here. His eldest child, a son, is at the University of Victoria. His daughter is finishing high school in Nanaimo. The long term plan is to relocate here permanently.

For now, it’s a lot of listening and learning as he attempts to navigate the riddle that is the District of Saanich, its staff, mayor, council and residents.

Disagreements such as the current for-and-against argument for increased parking at the Glendenning Road entrance to Mount Douglas Park are the type of unavoidable interfaces to be expected here, he said.

“Saanich is a dream job in terms of its size, and its unique construction of urban and rural development,” Thorkelsson said. “It raises challenges and opportunities. I don’t think you could make up a place with a higher balance of urban and rural that’s developed like this.”

In other words, let this be a reminder there can’t be a perfect solution for everything.

One of the items Thorkelsson’s left to deal with is from the Saanich spyware scandal created by an administration that is somewhat still in place, including director of corporate services Laura Ciarnello.

Thorkelsson said he’s heard from staff that there is progress on the recommendations from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham 2015 report on Saanich’s potentially criminal installation of spyware on the mayor’s and other computers.

Council’s direction was to fill the recommendations of the report.

“Staff are working through the recommendations and once they’re met, Saanich will hire a freedom of information and privacy officer,” Thorkelsson said. “We’ve been in touch with the commissioner’s office regarding progress.”

Thorkelsson will attend his second Saanich council when it resumes on Monday, Jan. 25.

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

Just Posted

Days after students’ return to Victoria High School was delayed by a year, the province has announced some amenities that will be included in the school’s expansion project. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Child-care spots, artificial turf field, non-profit space included in Vic High expansion

SD61 now aims to welcome students back at the high school by September 2023

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The Victoria woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Anita Troop officially turns 100 on Sunday and cards are pouring in from around the world. (Courtesy Marina Miller)
Cards roll in from around the world for West Shore 100 year old

About 100 cards have come for the woman who turns 100 on Sunday

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
UPDATE: Search suspended for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

A cardboard man bearing Queen Elizabeth II’s royal cipher has been placed in a window at the Royal Theatre for at least several days. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Mysterious cardboard figure appears in Victoria’s Royal Theatre window

The identity of the figure, which was moved there amid cleaning, remains unknown

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

Most Read