After almost seven years at the helm of B.C.’s largest regional district, Metro Vancouver’s top bureaucrat is calling it quits.
Chief administrative officer Carol Mason officially notified Metro Vancouver’s board of directors at an in-camera meeting on Friday afternoon of her decision to retire at the end of July.
“It doesn’t get bigger or better than this job,” said Mason, following the announcement. “This has just been a really special opportunity for me to be Metro Vancouver’s CAO and I’m definitely going to miss the work, so that part is hard, but I am looking forward to retirement, so I’m happy with the decision.”
After a four-month search, Mason was hired as CAO of the regional district and commissioner of the water and sewer districts in June 2012, beating out the deputy CAO and chief financial officer for the position.
Since she started working in local government in 1991, Mason has held a variety of positions, including at the management level within the city and regional district of Nanaimo. When she was hired by Metro, she was chief administrative officer of the Regional District of Nanaimo.
Metro’s chief administrative officer is the key contact with the 40-member board of directors, 21 member municipalities, one regional district and one First Nation, and is supposed to ensure the best professional advice is provided and helps the board articulate its goals and policies.
Among the changes she made was reducing the number of number of senior managers, building a strong management team and instituting five-year financial plans for the water and sewer utilities.
In a statement, Metro Vancouver board chair and longtime board member Sav Dhaliwal praised Mason’s “immeasurable” achievements, along with her effort, expertise and diplomacy.
“Her legacy will be defined by her unwavering commitment to facilitate substantive improvements to the organizational structure and introducing a myriad of board policies with respect to asset management, budgeting and financial planning that defines best practices,” Dhaliwal said.
Former board chair Greg Moore, who did not run for re-election as mayor of Port Coquitlam last fall, was on hand when Mason was first hired. He said the hiring committee was impressed by her history on the front lines of local government and her ability to handle pressure.
Making important decisions in concert with local government elected officials and bureaucrats was not an easy job, but Moore said she really valued their input.
“I think Carol set the culture of working together with the local governments. One of the terms that she used a lot that I think changed people’s mindsets was that we’re ‘a federation,’” Moore said.
“I think it was that type of mentality that really changed the discussion at Metro so that it wasn’t local governments coming to take on Metro Vancouver.”
He believes Mason has built a strong foundation for her replacement, and that her retirement is a chance for the board to hire someone who fits with their vision and direction for Metro Vancouver.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Moore said.
Metro’s board of directors approved a transition plan, and Dhaliwal will set up a selection committee that will begin searching for Mason’s replacement next month.