The following interview has been edited for clarity.
SPIN caught up with Shane Bourke, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality’s (SPMRM) new chief administrative officer (CAO), while he was reviewing capital projects “to see what [SPMRM] can wrap up before the snow flies.”
SPIN: Can you introduce yourself to SPIN’s readers?
Bourke: I am 46 years old, I was born just north of Edmonton in a small community of 600 people. After university, where I studied political science with a minor in commerce, I moved to Ottawa for 18 years where I worked for the federal government dealing in things like economic development and infrastructure in different public safety and national security files. Then I moved to Grand Prairie, [Alta.] where I joined the municipality for a number of roles including director of corporate services.
SPIN: What brought you to the mountains and why did you choose Sun Peaks?
Bourke: I moved here August long weekend with my wife Robin, 17 year-old son Seth and 12-year-old daughter Reese who is going into grade seven here while [Seth] splits his time between South Kamloops [Highschool] for a semester to finish his French immersion [requirements].
It was the mountain that brought me here. I always had a plan to move to the Interior of B.C. and to join a growing municipality where I had a chance to get a few ski days in. It was tough to pass up [the opportunity]. My family is always up for some adventure so it really is about quality of life and it’s tough to beat what Sun Peaks has to offer.
SPIN: For sure, I think Sun Peaks is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to resort municipalities in B.C.
Bourke: For me it really was about being able to see what it has to offer and how ambitious everybody is to deliver a small town feeling but willing to see some growth and some changes in the municipality. We have that chance to be a world class mountain resort community and I want to be a part of that plan to grow it.
SPIN: So what are your goals for the municipality in your first year as CAO?
Bourke: A lot of that is still being worked out with [SPMRM] council. Really, it’s to come up with a plan to grow and to provide more recreation opportunities and services for the community that we can afford⸺that always has to be a key piece of this as we keep growing, the demand on the services and facilities that we provide. We are also hoping to secure a few grants to speed those things up.
SPIN: Can you provide some examples?
Bourke: High on the list is making sure our health facility is meeting the needs. I know they’re working on the expansion to put in an ambulance bay. There’s a little work to do on the rink to make it a little more functional too. Some of the things that are big on my list is to work with the school board and community to provide increased daycare opportunities and education facilities through permanent infrastructure here for our growing community.
Adding on to that is to look at the housing affordability and availability for those working in the community. Council and I will be having lots of discussion to find out what model makes sense to add some more supply to make that available to those working in our community.
SPIN: That’s definitely a major crux across a lot of B.C. resort communities.
Bourke: The fortunate thing is that there’s lots [of communities] that are a little bit ahead of us. There’s lots of models, it’s just now how do we decide the structure of it, how do we assemble land, how do we start securing other levels of government funding for these things and how do we start building structures so they’re available. We’re going to look at what worked for those other communities, let’s talk to them and then write down a plan. Still some steps to take before there are shovels in the ground but the supply issue on non-market housing is a high priority for council to address.
SPIN: What are those steps?
Bourke: Talking to those communities that have different models in place. Council just passed a motion to allow us to hire a consultant to do some of that leg work for us and write a report so we have a playbook that we can start actioning. Earlier in the spring there was a needs assessment, so we know there’s demand and the municipality has a housing authority structured, now we need to put some resources into that to get it doing some work. When we talk in a year, I hope to show some action but it’s a long-term thing.
SPIN: What action would make you feel like you’re moving toward that goal in one year?
Bourke: Within a year, if we can find a project that we are ready to invest in and have secured grant funding for. Really, having a project to start moving forward on and getting some buy-in from the community would be good within a year.
SPIN: Any other big issues you want to talk about besides housing, childcare and school?
Bourke: No, really I’m just learning about all the nuances of living in Sun Peaks and I want to make sure I’m not heading down a path that someone has already tried. I’m definitely open to new ideas to find out what’s best to all of us here.
SPIN: There was a CAO vacancy for a long time. What does it look like for you getting started?
Bourke: I’ve got to say that I’m really proud of the employees that kept files moving over the last seven months. Coming here they really provided me with a chance to get my feet wet and to learn some things before moving into anything critical. They did the community proud during COVID and the wildfire and managed things well and really stepped up. Now I am hoping to take some weight off them to move some files forward before the snow flies.
SPIN: And how about those capital projects you mentioned you were looking at? What’s going on there?
Bourke: Just buttoning up some small things on the rink to finalize, the Health Association secured that grant for the ambulance bays, which we are going to help out with some of the project since we and the resort own the main building there. And then with the rink it’s just some odds and ends to polish it off like that score clock, change rooms and curtains.
SPIN: What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed moving from Grand Prairie to Sun Peaks in your short time here so far?
Bourke: Municipal issues are the same, no matter the municipality that you come from. You still have to have a plan to plow the roads and provide water. Really it’s just the scale; Grand Prairie was a little more advanced in their infrastructure so I’m hopeful I can use the lessons learned in Grand Prairie to help us advance some of the projects here.
The biggest difference here is the small town. It’s been great to do the village stroll and have people introduce me to others and hear about their experience in the community. That’s really what I wanted was to have a community where I could know about all the things that are happening and to be a part of making it better.
SPIN: And what is your favorite part of Sun Peaks so far?
Bourke: I have to say, I enjoy the morning walk to work when it’s a little crisp out and clear of smoke. Everything about mountain life and being able to walk everywhere in the fresh air, and the scenery has been good.
SPIN: Anything you’re really looking forward to?
Bourke: Ski season, the third week of November. I’m definitely looking to get in a few runs.
SPIN: Have you skied here before?
Bourke: Just a few days in February and I fell in love with it. The diversity of terrain and quality of snow makes it a great place to ski. So far The Sticks is my favourite and my family’s favourite run. It’s such a unique experience and I look forward to hitting The Sticks as many times as I can.