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City manager Tom Goulden: Alberta-bound

He's seen Humboldt go from a steadily progressive community to a booming one, and now, he's moving on.Humboldt city manager Tom Goulden will be working his last day in this community on June 30, six years almost to the day after he started.
Humboldt City Manager Tom Goulden is pulling up stakes and heading to Alberta after six years in this community.

He's seen Humboldt go from a steadily progressive community to a booming one, and now, he's moving on.Humboldt city manager Tom Goulden will be working his last day in this community on June 30, six years almost to the day after he started.Goulden is moving on to Stony Plain, Alberta, population about 14,000. Though it's big enough to be a city, Stony Plain has decided to remain a town, Goulden noted, because they prefer it that way."It's actually where Glenn Hall lives," Goulden smiled, referring to Humboldt's own hockey hero, Mr. Goalie.Stony Plain is just 20 kilometres west of Edmonton, and has seen its own boom in recent years. Goulden said the town grew 28 per cent from 2001 to 2006, in connection with the economic development in Edmonton.Stony Plain is a commuter town for Edmonton, Goulden noted, but it's got a nice downtown and is very close to Spruce Grove, a community of 20,000 people. There are also 42,000 people living in the rural area around the town - Parkland County.Goulden will be taking on the role of manager for Stony Plain. It's the same position with the same responsibilities as those he had in Humboldt, but a bit of a step up for him, career-wise, due to the larger population of the community.Goulden is looking forward to what Stony Plain has in store for him."There's a lot of interesting things going on in the municipality," he said. Stony Plain is part of the Edmonton Capital region, he said, which is a large planning region looking after joint-use services, transportation and LRT planning.Goulden said he thinks it will be interesting to learn about Alberta municipal government, and he's expecting a few differences along with the constants like "taxes, dogs and garbage," he smiled.Humboldt was Goulden's second posting in his career in municipal government. Before Humboldt, he worked for the town of Bredenbury on the eastern side of the province.He started his job in Humboldt on July 3, 2004, when Humboldt was quietly holding its own.At that time, if they sold a city lot, Goulden said he'd call up the mayor and they'd celebrate. That all changed around 2007. Lots had to be sold in a lottery for at least two years, starting in 2007, and now, the sale of city lots is so common, often Goulden isn't even informed right away when they occur."When you go through the numbers, it ends up looking like the last half-decade is one of the biggest building booms in the history of the community. The numbers are obscene, almost," he smiled. When else, he asked would 250 houses have been built in three years? Maybe in the 1950s or 1960s, he answered, but before that, it would have gone back to the founding fathers."We live in interesting times," he said. The growth of the city has definitely been the biggest change over the past six years, Goulden feels.The city, including council, had to move from a standpoint of encouraging growth to one of managing growth - two very different things, he said."The town I'm going to is very much managing growth," he said. "It's a different mindset," he added, and a challenge for every community in Saskatchewan that's now growing. "Stuff is going to happen," Goulden said. "We have to be ready to deal with it."When you're running a community, he added, you have to keep things in perspective, and remember that the community has a long history and a long future ahead of it."Managing a community for the future is sometimes a challenge," he said. "That's what city council is really tasked with doing - it's not always easy.... and you won't ever understand the changes until a few years from now, when you can get a historical perspective..... I think it will be interesting to look back 10 years from now."The growth of Humboldt has meant a rise in their annual budget as well, during Goulden's time at City Hall.Since 2004, the city's overall budget has gone from $4 million to an average of $8 to $9 million, thanks to more provincial and project-specific funding."It's a challenge to balance growth with service delivery," he said. The 2010 budget is a good example, he feels, of what growth can get a community. Though taxes went up three per cent overall, most taxpayers will only pay $7 to $9 more because there are more properties paying taxes. "It doesn't hit the tax base quite as directly," Goulden said. He's learned a lot during his time in Humboldt, Goulden admitted, especially how to deal with people "It's one of my favourite parts of the job," he said. "It's interesting to hear what people think."It's been great working with all the different people," Goulden said of his favourite memories of his time in Humboldt, from the experienced city staff to council."It's been great to be here and work with the different councillors - there have been about a dozen," he said. "It's so cool. Everyone brings their own take to things, and they're all there for the right reasons."That's the best thing about municipal government, he said - the elected officials always tend to be there to do what they can to make the community the best place it can be.It was especially difficult to inform the mayors he's worked with - former mayor Dennis Korte and current mayor Malcolm Eaton - of his decision to leave."I couldn't have asked for better mayors to work with," he said. Those two mayors taught him that part of sitting at his desk involves humility."And both taught me a lot about community leadership," he said. The project he's most proud of seeing come to fruition during his time in Humboldt actually isn't a city project at all, though the city did play a part. "Really, the number one, is the hospital," Goulden said. "Things like that come across once in a lifetime for everyone in the community."The new high school is high on his list as well. "It's one of those things that sometimes takes time to kick in, just how important these things are," he noted.These two things are what he mentions most When he started working in Humboldt, Goulden feels he was lucky to walk into a building with experienced staff. They helped him find his feet. Over the past six years, he's been able to return the favour to new staff members."I enjoy working with new staff, watching them grow into their roles and become professionals," he said.