Allan Chabot had a busy first week. There were meetings with department heads and city staff, committee meetings, interviews with the local media and more. All to get caught up as the new top manager at Revelstoke city hall.
“I feel like I’ve been drinking from the firehose,” he told me during an interview at his office on Friday.
Chabot was hired as the city’s Chief Administrative Officer in June, coming to the city from Merritt, where he’d been CAO for about a year. His first day of work was last Monday, Aug. 17, and his first week was spent getting caught up on what was happening in the city.
“There’s a lot of irons in the fire, there’s a lot of projects underway,” he said. “There’s a lot of projects that probably have a lot more effort associated with them that people might not realize — things like boundary extensions, getting electoral approval for the Big Eddy water system improvements. There’s long-term planning issues — the sewage treatment plant, pavement management strategy, the building maintenance strategy.”
In all of this, he sees his role as helping staff prioritize their workload, and working with council to make sure expectations don’t exceed available resources.
“Often in government there’s never time to do it right, but there is time to do it again,” he said. “I’d rather do it right the first time and that means giving yourself the tools to do the job.”
Born and raised in Invermere, Chabot comes to Revelstoke with three decades of experience in local government, beginning with a term as councillor in Invermere when he was 23. Three years later he was elected mayor and after one term in the seat, he decided to pursue a career in local government.
After going to school, he got a job as deputy city clerk, then city clerk in Prince George. After that, he moved to Golden, where he was the Corporate Officer. Eventually he landed as the CAO for the City of Fernie, a post he held for 10 years until he was let go in August 2012. In May 2014, he moved to Merritt to take over the CAO position there.
“I had no plans to leave Merritt and then the opportunity in Revelstoke came up,” he said. He applied for the post here that was vacated when the city parted ways with Tim Palmer and was hired in June. A Kootenay native, he wanted to return to the region. When asked why he applied for the job, he replied: “The size of the community, the landscape, the climate, the geography, the recreational opportunities. I like to ski, I like to golf, I like to fish.”
It’s Chabot’s Fernie experience that might be most applicable to Revelstoke. He moved there when it was in the midst of a growth period. The ski resort doubled in size a few years before he arrived, and there was a lot of development coming to the community.
“Fernie had been put on the map with resort expansion and plans,” he said. “The community was growing really rapidly, and then with the economic crisis of 2008 everything slowed right down.”
Revelstoke got a later start than Fernie in the resort game, and growth was stunted almost right away by the crash of 2008. Development appears to be returning to the community, with building permit values way up this year and at least two major proposals going through city hall — David Evans’ Arrow Heights housing development and the highway shopping centre.
Chabot views his role as facilitating the developers dealings with the city, and helping the community cope with development.
“Sometimes you can see these things coming in advance, so you can understand the anticipated impacts and plan for them,” he said. “Ultimately, land use, development and growth turns on council’s authority over land use — helping the council to understand the pros and cons of various proposals.”
Chabot also brings with him a mix of private sector experience, having worked in a sawmill, mining, trucking and tourism over the years. He said he’s supportive of traditional resource industries and their needs must not be ignored over resort development.
Chabot is single and has two children and two grandsons. He’s already bought a house in Revelstoke, near the golf course and has a travel trailer he’s hoping to use. We talked about fishing and skiing, but mostly about his new job.
“I’ve got lots to learn. I don’t know what the issues are but I’ve got a general sense of them,” he said. “It’s a fascinating job. I feel lucky to have a job like this.”