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Great hire by city

What a steal for the City of Prince George.

What a steal for the City of Prince George.

Landing Rob van Adrichem to take a newly-created position as the city's director of external relations is a major win for new city manager Kathleen Soltis, as well as city staff, city council and local residents and taxpayers.

The whining and moaning about van Adrichem's $160,000 annual wage at the city when he starts work in September has no connection with reality. His knowledge, expertise, connections, work ethic, productivity and passion for Prince George make him a unique acquisition and justify the expense.

For roughly the same pay at UNBC since he was made vice-president of external relations at the university six years ago, van Adrichem logged ridiculous hours on evenings and weekends for his employer, handling all chores large and small. There is no reason to think van Adrichem will give municipal government and city taxpayers any less commitment of his time and energy than he did while at UNBC.

What the city also gets in van Adrichem is a ridiculously well-connected operator with more than two decades of experience in an ambassadorial role for a critical civic institution. In his role at UNBC, van Adrichem travelled the region extensively on behalf of UNBC, getting to know virtually all of the elected officials at the municipal and regional district level in central and northern B.C. His contacts extend through all of the colleges and universities in B.C. with more than a few across Canada as well. In Victoria and Ottawa, Van Adrichem would have had dealings with the major political players, along with senior bureaucrats in several ministries. He's also picked up international experience representing UNBC and Prince George.

He's a proven leader, having shepherded the university's public and media relations, the development and implementation of its marketing and public identity, its fund development arm, its alumni relations, and certainly had a hand in student and faculty recruitment. UNBC and, by extension the city and region, saw a much greater return on investment than what it paid him in salary.

Again, there is no reason to suspect he will do anything less in his new role at the city.

The transition will be quick and seamless. What has been good for UNBC has been good for Prince George for the past 25 years. Telling Prince George's story to business, government and academia is to increasingly tell UNBC's story. Considering van Adrichem was a significant contributor in the writing and development of the UNBC story, he is well placed to continue his work for the benefit of all residents.

When he was UNBC president, Charles Jago identified van Adrichem's talent, mentoring him and giving him more responsibility, as well as input into the operations of the university. In exchange, van Adrichem continued to improve himself, earning both bachelor's and master's degrees while at UNBC. He has been blessed with some incredible opportunities since he left his job in local radio to join the then fledgling university 23 years ago but he has worked hard to obtain the maximum benefit from every one of those opportunities and make himself more valuable to his employer and the community.

Pretty good for a born-and-raised Prince George fellow.

Looking ahead, van Adrichem gives Soltis another option in her succession plan at the city. One of the jobs of any senior executive is to identify and groom individuals who could step into their chair in the future. With van Adrichem, Kris Dalio, Soltis's replacement in finance, and Walter Babicz in administration services, there are now several internal options for a future mayor and council to hire from within, a much cheaper and smarter proposition than a national search.

The short-term loser in all of this is UNBC and its new president Daniel Weeks. UNBC has the same difficult challenges and choices in its immediate future with budgets and enrolment that School District 57 and the College of New Caledonia are already going through. Losing van Adrichem means losing someone with an accurate pulse of the city and region, along with a ton of institutional knowledge and connections. Neither can be quickly or easily replaced. In the long term, however, it allows Weeks the opportunity to restructure his executive team and it gives him a valuable ally who bleeds UNBC green and gold at city hall.

The internal and external challenges in municipal government are numerous and relentless but having someone of van Adrichem's calibre on the team can only help city staff and city council.

-- Managing editor Neil Godbout