Murray Dinwoodie is stepping down as manager of the City of Surrey.

Surrey’s top bureaucrat bows out

'Phenomenal leader' Murray Dinwoodie has managed the city for almost eight years, overseeing some of its greatest growth.

Murray Dinwoodie is retiring.

Surrey’s city manager – the top bureaucrat at city hall – was named to the post in February 2007, after an exhaustive search to replace Umendra Mital.

Dinwoodie was considered a near tie for first-place Patrick Solerno, who was chosen in a hotly contested five-to-four vote at an in-camera meeting in 2006.

Solerno backed out, and Dinwoodie got tapped for the job.

Dinwoodie, who had previously been Surrey’s general manager of planning and development, stepped into the senior role at an annual salary of $235,000, which had climbed to $286,000 as of last year.

During his time as city manager, observers say Dinwoodie exceeded the expectations of even some of his most optimistic supporters during record years of development in the city.

Dinwoodie told The Leader in an interview Tuesday that he felt it was time to go.

“I’ve had a phenomenal time in Surrey. I’ve been blessed with a very incredible mayor and visionary council, fantastic staff,” Dinwoodie said. “In terms of my circumstances, they couldn’t be better.”

At 58, he said he feels it’s time to spend more time with his family. He said his health is fine.

He said the highlight of his time at city hall has been working with a high-calibre team.

“I couldn’t have written a script that would be better for a city manager,” Dinwoodie said.

Mayor Dianne Watts said he has been a great fit for the city during his tenure.

“He’s a highly intelligent individual, who really thinks about every angle of any situation before he moves forward with a decision,” Watts said.

“He’s been a phenomenal leader.”

A headhunting firm started looking for Dinwoodie’s replacement two weeks ago. It’s a process Watts acknowledges will be difficult.

She said Surrey will be looking for someone with the same traits as Dinwoodie.

“These were Murray’s attributes to the nth degree… his level of integrity, and the ability to always take the high road,” Watts said.  “Fundamentally, that’s what we need, and Murray was that in every sense of the word.”

A preferred candidate, she said, would be someone who is aware of local issues, can work well with other municipalities, and can take on some of the regional challenges at Surrey’s behest.

It is possible the new candidate could come from inside city hall, she said.

Dinwoodie will be leaving at the end of January 2014, but Watts wants the replacement in place before then.

Asked what he thinks are the challenges that lie ahead, Dinwoodie said the continuing growth of Surrey presents both challenges and opportunities.

“The city is positioned, as far as I can see, to be one of Canada’s great cities,” Dinwoodie said.

Because Dinwoodie is leaving of his own volition, he won’t be taking a severance package.

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