Oak Bay recreation director Lorna Curtis said she’s too busy to count the days until her retirement Nov. 25. “Maybe next week,” she said.
Curtis will leave the job after 31 years with the municipality, but not before helping pick her replacement.
“It’s unusual probably, to have the incumbent sit on the committee (to choose a new director),” she said. “I think that Mark (Brennan, municipal administrator) felt that since I had been here 31 years, I had a lot of history and experience, and he was the new CAO to the municipality, so it was helpful for me to be there.”
Curtis said they had a good selection of candidates for the job. Chosen for the position is Ray Herman, currently the director of parks and recreation in Mission. He officially took up his post in Oak Bay on Monday.
“We’re very happy he is coming to us with some director’s experience. It’s great for the community. With Agnes (Szilos) retiring a few years ago and now me, we have a combination of 50 or 60 years of experience. So his experience will be helpful with the leadership of the department,” Curtis said.
“The job did attract a lot of interest,” agreed Brennan. “It shows how prestigious a reputation our recreation division has across B.C., certainly as a job of choice.”
Brennan said Herman’s experience and background are exactly what they were looking for in a director. “He is highly recommended by his current employer, past employer and people he works with. He’s creative. He’s very proud of the fact that he introduced a rodeo to Panorama,” he said, referring to the North Saanich recreation centre where Herman began his career in the ’90s.
“I started as the arena co-ordinator for five years before I moved up to Mill Bay to the Kerry Park Recreation Centre,” said Herman. He then went on to jobs in recreation in Trail, Powell River and Mission.
“This is sort of like coming home. My wife also spent 25 years on the Peninsula, raised her children there and now has a two-and-a-half year old granddaughter we are looking forward to spending time with,” he said.
Herman said a variety of things, including friends and family, make Greater Victoria an attractive place to live. “The Oak Bay job is a pretty special job that I’m willing to leave Mission for. They’ve treated me extremely well here,” he said. “Oak Bay is known for a strong community recreation focus and philosophy that I’m comfortable with. … The philosophical approach appeals to me – they are a leader in the province.”
He said the Oak Bay job was at the top of his list. “I thought if I had an opportunity to come to Greater Victoria, then this is the job I would hope to come to. The timing has worked out very well and we’re very exited.”
“He gets two weeks with me – 31 years of history in two weeks,” Curtis said with a laugh. “I’ve been trying really hard to leave really good notes. He’ll have quite the start, lots of reading to do. I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she added.
Curtis said she will miss the people she works with the most, but the challenges of the job as well. “The challenges can be the most fun. The process of renovating the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, things like that. The people, the staff and – believe it or not – the politicians. I’ve enjoyed working with all of them.”
She is also proud of the legacy she is leaving. “Agnes and I worked as a team, I think she’d agree with me, it’s what we’re turning over to the next person.”
As much as Curtis hates to leave the staff at Oak Bay recreation, Herman is pleased to be working with them.
“I’m looking forward to working with a seasoned and knowledgeable staff,” he said. “I’ll also have to delve into budget and administration tasks, but I have no intention to upset the apple cart or be a bull in a china shop.”
According to Oak Bay’s 2010 annual report, Lorna Curtis was paid $112,759 for her position as Oak Bay recreation director. The job was advertised with an annual salary range for the position of $107,400 to $115,488 with a benefit package.
As director, Ray Herman will earn $117,588 for six months, which will then increase to $122,488. The increase is due to a wage disparity that was discovered during the hiring process, said Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton.
“We reviewed the compensation package for exempt staff and felt we needed to move the pay rate/pay scale. It was probably slightly un-competitive at the rate it was advertised. We had not done a review, it was as a result of a bit of negotiation.”