The Town of Outlook’s new administrator sees plenty of potential when it comes to the community, particularly as local government looks to foster future growth in the town where it’s needed.
Dean Pickering, who grew up in the small Alberta city of Fort Saskatchewan, started his new role in Outlook last month, adding to a lengthy resume of work in different levels of municipal government.
“I spent most of my life in Alberta in municipal government since I graduated from university,” said Dean, sitting down with The Outlook. “I had a few years where I was working for a municipal software company that built municipal systems, and then I went back into government in 2009. So I’ve basically been in municipal government or support since about 1992.”
Pickering’s first job as a student was in public works in his hometown, which is where he found out about municipal government, and he credits his first job as the life event that drew him into the field ever since.
In applying to his latest job posting, Dean was told that Outlook was a community that really wanted to grow, and he intends to help keep local government working smoothly and efficiently while also helping to foster that growth when it comes to new business and commerce.
“My goal is to put the base framework of good governance in place; not that it’s not in place now, but perhaps it needs some tweaking and some clean-up,” he said. “From there, I want to focus on the core values of what council wants to do, and those will be water, sewer, garbage, roads, and then help the business community to grow.”
With the number of communities that Pickering has worked in, he’s found similarities that a large number of them share, but each place also has its own uniqueness that makes it stand out, and Dean says he intends to help in areas that will help Outlook do just that in the future.
“Every community is unique in its own little things, but governance is governance across Canada,” he said. “Most towns are similar in how they’re governed, but the difference is legislation. It’s mainly in how you deal with the provincial level, and then of course in Saskatchewan there are a number of other elements. As far as the big differences in towns, it comes down to the basics, and you’ve got a core business community to provide services. My job is to provide the best services and best effort I can for that core business community because without the businesses, you don’t have people, and without people, you don’t have businesses. My focus is going to be to help the business community as much as possible and to help grow the area so that we can have more businesses come to the community because it’s been a bit stagnant as far as new big businesses coming here.”
In approaching his role as an administrator, Pickering sees it as an opportunity to not only be a leader, but also help develop them among his own staff. He believes in teamwork and showing people how they can develop the tools to pave their own paths toward helping a community’s administration be run as smooth and trouble-free as possible.
“A good administrator in my view is a leader in his administration largely because his role is to communicate with council all the things that need to get done in good governance models,” he said. “From there, you take whatever feedback comes from the council meetings and bring it to the staff to try and develop leaders within my staff. So my job is not to be a dictatorial ‘This is how it’s going to be done’ type, it’s to be developing leaders within my own staff so that they have the confidence and the capability and training to take on a role. So I’m basically being a leader among leaders, rather than just being an administrator shuffling paper.”
The challenge of starting any new job is learning the ropes, and that’s something Dean has been spending quite a bit of time doing; albeit at a brisk pace in order to get himself all caught up on what’s happening – and what’s *been* happening – in the town of Outlook and beyond.
“The biggest challenge is discovery in the first few months and just learning what has been done in the past,” he said. “A lot of times, certain practices have evolved over time, so documenting those practices and turning them into policies, and then taking those policies to council and saying, ‘Is this how you want to govern?’ So the biggest challenges are to get a strategic plan in place with council so they have their direction on where they want to go in the future, and from that strategic plan, making sure all of the other documents align.”
As for what he’s looking forward to in his new job, Pickering is anticipating working with what he describes as other leaders in the community, such as the sub-committees in Outlook, as well as groups such as the library board, the multiculturalism board and the Chamber of Commerce, lending his time and expertise in areas where he can.
The best thing about this particular line of work for Dean is that one never gets bored; perhaps that’s because an administrator doesn’t necessarily have the time to get bored with any one task.
“The reason I like the work so much is the variety of tasks; you don’t get bored,” he said. “One minute, you’re dealing with developers on a project and the next minute, you’re dealing with finance at different times of the year, as well as budgets. You find yourself dealing with municipal governance on the provincial level, as well as policing, tourism, and economic development, so there are a variety of tasks. The problem is if you don’t have a good strategic plan in place, you can get pulled in all sorts of different directions, and setting priorities becomes a big part of the job.”
As for his early thoughts on the community after being here for about a month, Pickering touched on the potential that Outlook has, pointing to the quality of life and the amenities offered in the community. As for what may be ahead, he’s looking forward to working with town council to set things in motion that will help set the course for Outlook’s hopefully-bright future.
“As far as facilities and the quality of life here in Outlook, it’s the reason that I came,” he said. “You have facilities, the river, the golf course, the irrigation systems, and from that you have the big dam and the huge lake. I fish, I golf and I like to get active by walking the trails. The quality of life here has a lot of potential. As far as the governance of the community goes, that’ll be seen when I bring all the new policies to council and see what they want to set as their priorities, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”