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Full text quotes: Gregor Robertson, Suzanne Anton, James Ridge

April 28th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Because this topic seems to be generating a lot of controversy, I will do a bit of notebook dumping here to give everyone all the evidence available before they come to a verdict.  And then we can move on to other things.

First off, Gregor’s comments in full to me and other media.

In the scrum early Tuesday morning, he said this: “He’s provided good leadership at the city for the past few years, and he’ll be missed for sure. I don’t think it’s unusual to see a turnover with a change in government; we have a really ambitious agenda and people will decide a time to move on when it makes sense in their careers. James has got a great opportunity at UBC and he’ll be around through the end of May for a smooth transition and we’ve certainly appreciated his work for the city. He’s been a big asset and he’ll be missed.”

I’m told by the mayor’s office that the comments to Jeff Lee about why staff were leaving (pressures of the Olympics and the new demanding agenda) were made in response to Jeff’s questions about why there seemed to be a general exodus, not why James Ridge was leaving.

My interview later, where I was asking him at once about both the departure of James Ridge and the exodus of many other senior staffers. (He didn’t say this all in one go, I had intervening questions.)

“We have an ambitious agenda, we’re dealing with unprecedented challenges. It’s meant that people who are considering a change have all the more reason to leave. It’s not uncommon for there to be a turnover of a management team when there’s a big change and a new political direction I think it’s not uncommon. I have no doubt our city can still attract top-notch talent. It’s Penny’s decision on what we do now. She knows full well how much we want to get done. There’s certainly a new culture of high productivity and big expectations at city all. There’s great people filling the gaps. The talent at city hall is deep. Peter Judd stepping up to fill in for Dave Rudberg, it’s good to see him get that. I’m hopeful this is creating opportunities for good people to step up.”

And are you politicizing city hall? “If it was that, James wouldn’t be waiting over a month to go. He’s respectful of the situation. There’s no doubt the culture is shifting here.”

Are you concerned more people will be leaving? “I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s beyond the normal rate of attrition.”

A few more points from Suzanne that didn’t make it into print: “I’m very disappointed but I can’t say I’m surprised. When we stole [James] from North Vancouver, I’d been gloating about what a great theft it was. He’s masterful, pragmatic, even-tempered. I’m very very sorry he’s left the city. This is a failure of leadership from the mayor, a failure to keep his top people there.”

And finally, a very tactful (and funny) note from James himself in response to all the uproar:

I’m trying to keep a relatively low profile today. In fact I like to keep a low profile every day.
I’m a bit dismayed by some of the speculation about why I am leaving. I’ve worked for six mayors in the last six years, in three different municipalities, so I am very accustomed to change and transition. The reason I’m moving on is very simple: I have been offered an extremely challenging new job in a great university. I’ve spent roughly equal thirds of my career in the three levels of government, and was both surprised and very interested when I was first approached about the UBC position. I became more intrigued and attracted as the process unfolded. I also met some wonderful people during the process who were very positive about my candidacy, in spite of my weird resume and total lack of experience in a university setting.  I’m more than a little surprised that I was successful.
I have committed to Penny to do everything I can in the next five weeks to ensure a smooth transition that keeps the business of the City unfolding smoothly.

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