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Van Adrichem excited about new role with city

The outgoing UNBC vice president of external relations said he sees his departure from his home on the hill as an exciting evolution.
Rob Van Adrichem speaks during a presentation in 2010.

The outgoing UNBC vice president of external relations said he sees his departure from his home on the hill as an exciting evolution.

"I've really been interested in this relationship that's evolved over time between the university and the city and the region and had really neat interactions with communities around the north," said Rob van Adrichem, who begins as the city's director of external relations on Sept. 1.

Van Adrichem said he's always had an interest in local government, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in political science.

"I see this opportunity much the same way as my UNBC opportunity - it's to be a local person and to be able to take your interests and your education and have some other organization be happy to have you apply that with them," he said. "How can you not be thrilled with that and consider that an incredible privilege?"

The role of external relations director is a newly created position within city hall, one which city manager Kathleen Soltis said is still being fleshed out.

"We've seen his success at the university. So to some extent we're going to be looking to him to assist us to develop the external relations function," said city manager Kathleen Soltis.

The basic outline of the job will be to help city council reconnect with stakeholders and partners, Soltis said, as well as help mould community consultation and engagement activities such as neighbourhood meetings.

"So for example, the Hart sewer project and projects that can be quite sensitive or contentious like the two farmers markets," Soltis said.

"So we're looking for Rob's expertise and to guide us to do these sorts of consultation processes better than we now do them."

Van Adrichem will also be looked to for help in turning documents, such as the annual report and yearly budget, into better communication tools instead of items that merely meet statutory requirements, Soltis said.

Along with the title of director comes an annual salary of $159,541, said Soltis.

This will be a slight pay cut from UNBC - the Vancouver Sun database of public sector salaries pegged van Adrichem at bringing home $170, 277 in 2013/14 fiscal year. But his city salary would put him in the top five highest-paid city employees (based on the last available figures from 2013).

The city's financial information for 2014 is due for release next month.

Covering the new director's salary comes from a combination of sources, said Soltis. In addition to money available in the city manager's budget for communications staff, the role of communications manager wasn't filled after Todd Corrigall's departure in January.

There were also other changes made to the city's staffing level after Soltis took on the city manager role.

"The end result was that filling this position at a higher level - it's higher than the manager of communications that Todd was in - even doing that we still have a little bit of money left with all of the other changes that were made," Soltis said.

"The pluses were outweighed by the minuses of positions that we're not going to fill after all."

The new director's September start date is partly to coincide with another shift within city hall's organizational structure.

Currently, the communications function operates under Walter Babicz's administrative services department.

External relations will move into its own category, reporting directly to Soltis, with current city spokesperson, Mike Kellett, reporting to van Adrichem.

There will also be changes in the engineering and public works department taking effect at that time. General manager (and asset maintenance guru) Frank Blues is retiring, opening the position up for Dave Dyer. At that point, Gina Layte Liston will move into the director of public works spot, which Dyer has filled on an interim basis since Bill Gaal left in February.

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