After nearly a decade guiding the staff of Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM), chief administrative officer (CAO) Rob Bremner will move on at the end of January.
Since 2012 he has played an integral role in managing the municipality through periods of intense growth and change.
Bremner said after leaving Sechelt, B.C., he knew the Sun Peaks CAO job was the one he wanted.
“That was solidified when I had my first conversation with Al and thought that we were certainly on the same page with the way you want to work and the way you get things done, and that was certainly what solidified it for me and the community was really attractive to me.”
As soon as he learned his daughter would be able to attend school on the mountain the deal was finalized.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to come here and it was obviously the right one.”
Soon after his family made the move to the mountain Mayor Al Raine and his wife Nancy Greene Raine took Bremner skiing.
“I remember being in the lineup and getting ready to get on the chair and I remember watching the chairs swing around and I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to miss it.’”
But while Bremner made it onto the lift, he knocked Raine right off the end.
“That can be a career shortening thing,” he said with a laugh.
But despite the rough introduction Bremner jumped into the role, which at the time was accompanied by only a few staff positions.
As the years went on it was necessary to bring more staff on board while still keeping the team efficient and nimble, something Bremner said he is most proud of.
“I think we certainly have always done things with that mindset, even as we’ve taken things on, we’ve had to grow and we haven’t had a choice. I think it’s always been done with the mindset of being small and efficient. And I think we’ve done that well, and I think that even though we’ve accomplished a lot in growing significantly and built a number of things, we still manage them through that lens of remaining small and efficient.”
He explained having a strong team who knew what they were doing, the history of the community and where SPMRM is heading has made all the difference.
“That’s probably the biggest thing that I’m most proud of, there’s lots of projects and things we’ve done [but] I think my personal piece is that we’ve put together a really nice team.”
He said it wasn’t until a few years after he started that the growth seriously started booming.
“We were just facing the end of that 2008 recession…It was two or three years before it was just firing on all cylinders. It was kind of a challenge to keep up on top of things.”
One major example of an issue that grew quickly was short-term rentals throughout the village. Bremner said he was particularly proud of the way SPRMM and council managed it after years of festering issues prior to and after municipal incorporation in 2010.
“It was about taking a fairly significant issue, kind of prior to everybody starting to deal with it around the province we had it on our radar…but I think we dealt with it in a very fair and equitable way and changed and moved and made our process fit what works best here. It was a made-in-Sun Peaks-solution that worked well, and I think we’ve done a lot of that…problem solving based on a Sun Peaks solution that may not work in many other places.”
Doing things a little differently to serve the community has been a common theme of Bremner’s work.
He explained that he had been happy to see a council who had historical knowledge, common sense, and were in their roles to serve the community rather than further a political career.
“I think we’ve had the right processes at the right time for the problems that we were facing and those solutions and things have morphed and changed over time in order to fit the situation. And that’s a really good thing, to have had that ability to grow with our problems.”
In his new role as CAO for Port Coquitlam, Bremner said he expects to face similar challenges but on a larger scale and with far more staff.
He’ll be taking his experience in Sun Peaks, municipal experience from other communities, time spent as a helicopter pilot and years spent in hockey with him into the new job.
“I believe that here we’re maybe 25 to 30 employees, it will be 680 or something in Port Coquitlam…I’ve always believed it’s just order of magnitude, I’m not going to change the way I manage things…they’ve got housing issues, we’ve got housing issues, they’ve got utilities, we’ve got utilities. It’s just bigger, and from my perspective I just try to move things forward with a mind of common sense.”
Jan. 29 will be his last day working for SPMRM before he makes the move.
He said while he will miss the mountains, he won’t miss shoveling snow or cold cars.
“We will come back, I’m sure, to visit. We’ve made a lot of good friends here.”