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The doctor is in: A close look at Penny Ballem

October 14th, 2009 · 20 Comments

My latest column in Vancouver magazine is on Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem, who seems to be enjoying her job more every day. (Heard her ALL over the radio all day today telling people they should leave their cars at home during the Olympics.)

She’s a fascinating woman to watch in action and to hear stories about. Her public persona is disarming — warm and relaxed and, when she doesn’t know something, she says it flat out.

But I’d love to be a little webcam on the wall in her office. I hear her technique is to deliver the bad news immediately and fast, pulling no punches, and then move on to “okay, now what can we do about this?”

And, although she’s an acknowledged nanomanager with a sharp tongue, it seems clearer to me with every passing day that she’s the kind of leader who forms a strong bond with those whom she sees as part of her team. The question for many is whether her drive to centralize and control the sprawling city hall of tradition will be an improvement or whether something will be lost in the process.

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