White Rock’s acting city manager is no stranger to jumping feet first into unfamiliar municipal surroundings.
Dennis Back has done the same thing from Squamish to Penticton since retiring as manager for the District of North Vancouver three years ago.
“This is my third stint at this,” Back said last week, on his sixth day in the local chair.
“It’s the same business, different place. I kind of know what the questions are to ask.”
Back, 59, stepped into the local interim role Feb. 1, following the Dec. 20 resignation of Peggy Clark, who had held it since 2006. Prior to Back’s arrival, financial services director Sandra Kurylo filled the position on a temporary basis.
Hired on a four-month contract, Back said he’s in White Rock to ensure day-to-day operations run smoothly, to work through the budget – and to see through the process of recruiting a new city manager.
“I have to and I am flexible in terms of how long I’m here,” he said. “But my interest… is to find that person as soon as possible.”
In introducing Back to the public during the Feb. 6 council meeting, Mayor Wayne Baldwin lauded Back’s qualifications, which he said also include stints in Powell River and Oliver.
“He comes to us with a great deal of experience,” Baldwin said.
In his first five days on the job, the North Vancouver resident toured several city facilities, and met with senior staff and other city employees. He said he was impressed with everything and everyone.
“We’ve got a lot of really hard-working folks on staff here with the city, all trying to do a good job,” he said.
“Is there work to be done? Well, of course, there always is and there’ll always be challenges. That’s normal in this line of work.”
While Back wouldn’t highlight any specific areas as catching his eye for needing attention, he said what he did notice was “nothing serious, that’s for sure.”
He described the city’s unique position of having zero long-term debt as “pretty incredible.”
“The finances have been well-managed in the past,” Back said.
Less unique is the fact White Rock’s wish list exceeds the city’s available resources.
Asked if the issue of White Rock remaining independent has come up, Back said he did ask questions on the matter, given that Surrey surrounds the seaside city. He said he’s been assured the idea isn’t on the table.