Jeff Johnston was named the new chief administrative officer (CAO) for the Town of Beaverlodge Monday.
Johnston is the former chief operating officer for Aquatera and will be tasked with ensuring municipal policies and programs are implemented in Beaverlodge starting Dec. 1.
“One thing that I’ve based my career on is being challenged, so this is something very exciting to me ... I’m drawn to the challenge,” Johnston said.
“Beaverlodge is no different from any other small municipality at this time, challenged with (securing) funding for infrastructure, either from the tax base or federal or proVincial aid.
“Coming up with ways to meet the levels of services that residents expect and ensure the sustainability of the community - that’s critical and something I’m well-prepared for to assist the town with.”
Mayor Gary Rycroft said council felt Johnston would be a good fit due to his engineering and administrative background.
“He’s worked on bridges and roads and ... knows water and sewer and the infrastructure challenges everybody has, so it will be an easy fit,” Rycroft said.
Infrastructure poses a challenge to every municipality and will always be a concern for Beaverlodge, Rycroft added.
Johnston was born in Calgary and raised in the Prince George area.
He has lived in the Grande Prairie area for the past 18 years.
Currently, he lives in the county near Wembley and said he is considering a move to Beaverlodge.
His wife Jody is a teacher at Hythe Regional School.
The couple has four children: Rebecca, 20, Harris, 20, Spencer, 20 and Gabriel, 11.
Johnston noted his wife grew up in the area and she has family in Lymburn.
He says this family tie and his interest in small communities helped draw him to the Beaverlodge post.
He served as chief operating officer for Aquatera from 2009 to 2012 and 2014 to July, managing the operations of water and wastewater facilities.
Johnston said while he’s worked in administrative positions, being in a top job will be a new experience for him and he is looking forward to the challenge.
His work with Aquatera gave him experience with working on “substantial” operating and capital budgets, he said.
He also hopes to bring “value” to infrastructure through his expertise, including in water and wastewater infrastructure, he said.
Johnston said he is familiar with Beaverlodge’s issues with stormwater management, water and wastewater and believes they are manageable.
“It’s a matter of processes and working through that,” he said.
Process includes an assessment to determine where the gaps are, planning long-term renewal of assets and finding funding, ideally including federal and provincial support, Johnston said.
With an education in engineering, he also has experience with roads, including design and construction under the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation from 1991 to 2002.
Though he’s taken his own tour along town streets, Johnston said he hasn’t yet perused formal assessments of Beaverlodge’s road infrastructure.
He said he believes progress in road rehabilitation can be made through prioritizing projects and investing in improvements accordingly.
When Johnston becomes CAO next month, he said he will begin by determining where Beaverlodge’s challenges are and prioritizing them.
Beaverlodge’s previous CAO was Karen Gariepy, who assumed the position in January 2019 but went on leave in February 2020 for personal reasons. Gariepy resigned in June.
Tina Letendre has been acting CAO since Gariepy left.
Rycroft said the town received 50 and 60 applications for the CAO position before narrowing the list to a half-dozen candidates.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News