Allan Chabot (Contributed photo)
By Dale Boyd
Soon to be CAO of Osoyoos, Allan Chabot, is fittingly a small-town guy.
“I like living in small towns. I have no desire to live in the big city. Other than some life experience in Victoria and Prince George, it has been primarily small towns for me,” Chabot said.
He takes over for Osoyoos CAO of over a decade, Barry Romanko, at the end of July.
Chabot brings a wealth of political experience to the town, entering into politics at just 24 years old. His dissatisfaction with the council of the day ended with him winning a councillor’s chair in Invermere. He eventually served as mayor of Invermere, where he was born and raised, from 1988 to 1990.
“I found what a fascinating business (politics) is because there are so many things that you do. You’re providing parks and recreation and festivals, economic development, water and sewer, roads, parks,” Chabot said. “You’re in a bunch of different business lines and there’s never a dull moment.”
His desire for a more hands-on connection to communities drove Chabot to switch over to the administrative side of politics. After attending university, Chabot was hired on as deputy city clerk in Prince George, eventually moving up to city clerk and spending six years in northern B.C., which he called a “great learning experience.”
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“I think I wanted to do more of the implementation rather than the ideation and thinking about things,” Chabot said. “I was more interested in seeing services delivered efficiently and, effectively.”
He has since worked as CAO of Merritt, Fernie, and corporate officer in Golden. His most recent post was CAO of the City of Revelstoke since 2015.
The move to Osoyoos was out of a desire for a smaller community, Chabot said.
“Sometimes things aren’t working out as you hoped, so you make a change. I’ve visited (Osoyoos) many times. I’ve been here playing golf in February while I lived in Fernie and the snowpack was over four feet deep across my entire lawn,” Chabot said.
The work is similar no matter what community Chabot is in, but there are certain challenges to smaller communities like Osoyoos.
“You’re trying to do just as much as larger communities, but you’re doing it with less resources. You don’t have the specialized expertise, the depth, the number of people, but the public’s expectations for service are every bit as great,” Chabot said.
It is important to be attuned to the desires of council, while striking a balance between the different interests he serves.
“It’s almost like walking a tight rope and finding the balance between serving the council, the community and the corporation equally,” Chabot said.
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“It’s an interesting role. Sometimes you have to say some things that maybe aren’t overly welcome or say ‘no you can’t do those types of things.’ But it is more about finding a way to say ‘here’s how we can do the things you want to achieve.’”
The lessons he brings with over 30 years of experience in muncipal politics are: listening with both ears, and having an open-door policy.
“I don’t ever feel I have the right to not meet with someone no matter how problematic they might be, or how difficult their opinions might be,” Chabot said.
Chabot said he could not comment on his two months of paid leave prior to resigning as CAO of Revelstoke, along with a city engineer who was also on leave at that time, but added he was “looking at opportunities (elsewhere) before any of that happened.”
While he is set to take the reigns at the end of the month, Chabot admits he’s “got a lot to learn yet.”
“I’ve got to get to know our neighbouring communities, our First Nation community, the regional district, what council’s priorities and policies are. So for me the first period of time is going to be being a sponge and learning as much as I can,” Chabot said.
Already on Chabot’s radar are an update of the official community plan, and some larger developments on the horizon for Osoyoos.