Retiring chief administrative officer Peggy Clark when she was first hired by the City of White Rock

White Rock city manager suddenly calls it quits

Peggy Clark announces retirement at end of day Tuesday – effective immediately.

After six years as White Rock’s city manager, Peggy Clark has called it a day.

After announcing the decision in a news release Wednesday morning, Mayor Wayne Baldwin confirmed Clark delivered the news at the end of the day Tuesday.

It took effect immediately, he said.

“It had been brewing for a little while, but it was unexpected, pretty much,” Baldwin said.

He said the decision was entirely Clark’s, and that the fact it was announced and took effect so quickly is not unusual.

Clark could not be reached for comment by Peace Arch News deadline Wednesday. She states in the news release the timing for the move is good, given the recent election.

“This is a good time to make a change, with a new council and mayor taking up their duties this month,” she says.

“I want the new council to be able to move forward with a new CAO on board to implement council’s vision for White Rock.”

Clark was hired in the fall of 2006 to replace Baldwin, who retired from his role as the city’s chief administrative officer after 23 years.

In the years since, she worked with two mayors – first Judy Forster, then Catherine Ferguson – and saw her share of controversial, challenging and rewarding events.

In September of this year, Clark’s compensation – and that of city operations director Rob Thompson – was the focus of criticism from Baldwin, after the latter declared his candidacy for White Rock councillor, but prior to his decision to run for mayor.

In a Sept. 2 letter to Peace Arch News, Baldwin described Clark’s salary and benefits as “exceedingly generous.”

“The manager was hired in October 2006, at an annual salary of $140,000. For the year 2007 she received $149,988. In 2008 she received $153,912. Evidently, 2009 was a good year, for she was given a 17.5 per cent increase to $180,917,” Baldwin wrote.

“The generosity continued in 2010 as her compensation vaulted to $194,535. This is a total annual salary increase of $54,535, or 39 per cent, in four years. Given the cost of living increases we have been seeing, this kind of a salary increase is totally beyond all reason.”

Clark would not comment publicly on Baldwin’s letter, though the matter was raised during all-candidates meetings, with mayoral hopeful Lynne Sinclair noting that Baldwin himself was paid $523,678 – including salary, benefits payouts and severance – when he retired.

Baldwin said Wednesday the issue did not create tension between him and Clark.

“Peggy recognized I was commenting about council, not her,” he said. “It was entirely directed at council. Unfortunately, it was interpreted (as targeting Clark specifically) by some people.”

He agreed the role of city manager can take its toll. It’s “wearing at the best of times,” he said.

“She was facing her third mayor in a not very long period of time.”

While Clark was not often at the centre of controversy, she did weather many city storms.

Among the more contentious were Forster’s May 2007 developer-paid trip to China; and council’s 2009 decision to look at contracting White Rock’s fire services to Surrey. Clark also withstood the fight for control of the Business Improvement Association, after a BIA board member took the association to court that year to have the board ruled invalid.

Clark states in this week’s release she is most proud of the new Centre for Active Living, which officially opened adjacent to Centennial Arena last June.

Her official retirement date is in March. Until then, she is using up unpaid holiday entitlements.

Baldwin said financial services director Sandra Kurylo will serve as acting city manager until the position can be filled.

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