Nakusp now calls Linda Tynan its permanent CAO, who is discovering what Nakusp is all about, both inside and outside the Village office.
“I had an opportunity the other day to hike to the hot springs source,” she said, and immediately went home and told her family that they were going to be spending more time hiking around Nakusp.
Originally from Burnaby, CAO Linda Tynan has brought her knowledge to Nakusp following a route that first passed through Nelson and North Vancouver.
“I owned Ramses Art Supplies in Nelson. It was one of those freak things of life,” she grinned, and quoted herself at the time: “’This sounds like a good thing to do: pack up our three little kids and move to Nelson and start up a business we don’t have any idea about.’”
Tragically, the business partner and friend who had convinced Tynan and her family to move to Nelson was diagnosed with a brain tumour not long after their arrival. Ultimately, his death and the resulting stress caused the business and family to disintegrate, but at that point Tynan had decided she wanted to stay in the Kootenays.
With her accounting background, she began working at the Kootenay School of the Arts (KSA) as manager of finance for the administration, a move that she sees as her first real foray into public administrative-type work. There, she worked on the agreement of understanding when KSA was looking at merging with Selkirk College, a foreshadowing of the kind of work she would be facing as part of a municipal administrative team.
From there, she worked with the City of Nelson and the RDCK for several years until she felt she might need a change of scenery in 2003.
Not sure she wanted to be in Nelson any more, Tynan sold her business and took a job with the City of North Vancouver.
“I just didn’t know if it was going to work out staying in Nelson,” she said, “so I went back and it happened to work with my kids.”
“It was really my start in local government,” she told me, “It was a really fantastic experience for the most part. The city manager was a mentor for me.”
Tynan found their knowledge and their willingness to share their knowledge in an atmosphere that supported learning very inspiring.
“Local government is a whole world, and to do it well, to be able to serve your community and your council and to maintain standards – it’s a bit of a balancing act,” she said.
As far as her time in Nakusp, Tynan is finding it every bit as stimulating as her work on the coast or in Nelson.
“I’m finding it challenging and interesting,” she said, “Some people say that Nakusp is just a small place, but the complexity is just the same, in fact somewhat more so because not only the CAO but all the staff have to be so knowledgeable in so many areas.”
“The knowledge and the commitment of the staff is amazing,” she added, noting that the people here not only have to be as competent here as anywhere else, but they also have to have a broad knowledge as well as in-depth knowledge in their particular area of expertise.
“There’s so much going on. Nakusp is an interesting size, and there are a number of big projects going on,” Tynan reflected, “There are a number of committed individuals and committees in the community, so there’s a lot of passion.”
“I’m really enjoying getting to know the community,” she remarked, particularly the people who are active in various organizations in town like the library or the historical society.
“They make the community go,” she said, noting that money isn’t the only thing that is needed to make Nakusp a vibrant place, that people are what make things happen. Of course, Tynan is very happy to help people connect to the financial and material resources they need, but she recognizes that it is people that power what happens in town.
Here, what she has found is that people are curious and interested in what she does as part of the Village.
“It’s not negative, it’s a genuine interest in the people that come here,” she told me.
One part of a CAO’s job is to prepare reports and recommendations for the council so they are able to make meaningful decisions.
“They need the facts so they can debate them,” Tynan said. When issues are referred back to staff in the course of a council meeting, what does it mean?
“Typically it means refer back to me,” she smiled, “[but] the longer I’m here, the more you’ll see more [reports] coming directly from other people.”
In smaller centres without a full-time administrator on staff, many councils are left doing the reports themselves, which takes up a huge amount of their time and resources. This is something that Tynan doesn’t want Nakusp to have to contend with, hoping to enable a more effective local government.
“Just because we’re small doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow the same good procedures,” she said.
The CAO is conscious of the need for clear procedures, which ensure that the workings of the village run smoothly both on a day-to-day basis and through something like an election.
Tynan brings her own natural focus on learning and accountability to wherever she is working, and has been delighted to find people here keen to encourage that work culture as well.
“There’s a lot of openness to learning,” she observed, and said that staff as well as council and the public can rely on her to give them the straight goods, both good and bad, on any topic.
“We want all the people who work here to recognize what a wonderful place it is to work, and for that to show in how we do that work,” Tynan said, pinpointing strong leadership and teamwork as key factors in allowing that to happen.