Financial leader leaves the roost

Director of Financial Services retires this month after 28 years on the job

Patricia Walker retires as Director of Financial Services for Oak Bay on Jan. 31 after 28 years working for the municipality.

Patricia Walker retires as Director of Financial Services for Oak Bay on Jan. 31 after 28 years working for the municipality.

An adding machine sits on the desk of the financial leader’s office at Oak Bay municipal hall.

Patricia Walker jokes she’s a bit “old school” like that. She uses an adding machine, loves binders and has papers everywhere. The machine will likely go too once she retires Jan. 31.

“Patricia has been a stalwart in guiding the affairs of the district for over two decades,” said Mayor Nils Jensen. “She’s been a model employee throughout. Her loyalty, diligence and energy will be dearly missed.”

Walker started as deputy treasurer on July 27, 1987, coming from a job with the province, climbing into the municipal treasurer’s seat three years later.

“I always joke I got the job because of the accent, but they kept me on,” she said in her south London lilt.

She’ll retire from the position recently renamed Director of Financial Services.

“The biggest changes are technology,” she said of her 28-year stint. “When I started, the room next to (my office) was the computer room,” she said. A computer and printer took up the whole room, and everyone shared.

Though as deputy treasurer in her early years, she did get some quality time with the bulky dot-matrix printer they called “the shake, rattle and roll,” a name Walker admits they may have borrowed from Esquimalt who had the same machine.

“The deputy treasurer was responsible for nursing the printer overnight,” Walker said.

As a shared resource, the finance department couldn’t tie up the machine all day printing tax notices. They started the lengthy print job at 4 p.m. and it often ran into the wee hours of the morning, feeding paper and fixing jams.

These days they have multiple machines that scan, print and fax.

Over her nearly three decades the role of the finance department hasn’t changed all that much, but it has expanded some, as all the departments work more closely together.

“The finance department, we’re obviously performing a service to the community, but we’re also performing a service to the other departments, making sure they have the information they need to do their jobs.”

One of the many things Walker looks forward to after 28 years tackling the books for Oak Bay is a spring holiday. “Because the financial year is the way it is I haven’t been able to travel January to June,” Walker said. So she plans to spring a trip on her husband, to see the tulips in Holland. Gardening, books, walking and even some trips to Oak Bay Rec are also on the leisurely agenda.

“I probably have two years worth of Downton Abbey to watch before I get into this year’s,” she said with a chuckle.

Again a bit old school, Walker’s prepared a binder filled with Oak Bay insider info for her replacement Debbie Carter.

“I live in the community so I’m expecting phone calls,” Walker said. “I’ll be around.”

Carter assumes the role of Director of Financial Services for the district of Oak Bay this month. Carter was Executive Director Corporate Finance and Senior Financial Officer with the Ministry of Human Services with the Province of Alberta. Prior to that, she held positions as Chief Financial Officer with the City of Leduc, District of Sooke and served as Manager of Customer Services and Administration with the Capital Regional District.

Retirement, as it so often is, is bittersweet for Walker.

“I work with a great bunch of people,”  she said. “People work hard here and everybody tries to do the best job they can. I’m proud of them.”