Penticton has lost another high-ranking staffer with the resignation of Chuck Loewen on June 1.
Loewen, the general manager of facilities, museum and recreation services has been acting as interim city manager since Annette Antoniak vacated the position in February.
Loewen made his decision known to council before their regular meeting Monday evening. His final day will be on June 18.
“We were surprised,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. “We just found out last night. It’s a new opportunity for Mr. Loewen and we wish him all the best.”
Jakubeit said Loewen demonstrated his business acumen, helping reduce the subsidy needed to run the community centre from over $1 million to $232,000.
“We’re proud of the job Chuck has done,” Mayor Jakubeit said.
Jakubeit said city staff is often the object of ridicule and attacks from citizens, but the accomplishments of Loewen and others often went unremarked.
“We never come together when staff saves us a million dollars,” said Jakubeit, adding that if the community didn’t notice, other cities, businesses and corporate headhunters did, accounting for the city losing three high-profile staff — Anthony Haddad, Antoniak and Loewen — over the last year.
“Anthony, Annette and Chuck have been headhunted,” said Jakubeit. “Other people see the good work our staff is doing and that becomes attractive to them.”
Loewen was unavailable for comment on Tuesday afternoon, but Jakubeit confirmed that Mitch Moroziuk, director of operations, would be the next staff member to take over as interim CAO.
The City of Penticton offered Loewen his first job in the public sector, although he had professional experience working with all levels of governments prior to filling the general manager position.
Before coming to the City of Penticton in 2011, Loewen worked in Ontario’s Niagara region as general manager of the Peace Bridge Duty Free shop, which is the largest of its kind on the continent. Before that, Loewen, who has a BA in business administration, spent 20 years working for Sears.
“I look at things a little differently,” he said upon taking on the role. “I ask questions. I look at things that bring value. I probe and get deeper in to see how we can improve our business lot as well as our environment for our citizens and for the community of Penticton.”
At the time of Loewen’s hiring Antoniak said his experience would benefit the city by implementing new marketing solutions and providing exceptional recreational needs.
“We had a lot of applicants that came forward for the general manager position,” Antoniak said in 2011. “What we were looking for at the recreation centre was a little bit different. We were looking for somebody with a little bit more entrepreneurial type skills and a little more creativity.”
Meanwhile, the search for a new CAO continues. The city has received slightly over 100 applications for the new CAO, which has been shortlisted down to 15-20 applicants. Jakubeit said the city has begun the interviewing process.
“We are getting close to being able to make an offer,” said Jakubeit, adding that they hope to have the CAO position filled by mid to late August.
Jakubeit said the applicants that the city is interested in have demonstrated an eclectic range of qualifications needed for the position, which includes the responsibility of looking after a staff of 300, working in a “fishbowl environment” and being accountable to council and the city.
Jakubeit said he doesn’t yet know the cost of their search for a new CAO, but it will be released after the process.