There are currently four unfilled higher-level positions at the City of Whitehorse, some of which have been unfilled since spring 2017. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

City of Whitehorse shuffles staff as months-long vacancies mount

Four high-level jobs with the city remain unfilled

The city is in the process of hiring a new fire chief, a position that’s been vacant since former chief Kevin Lyslo stepped down from the position in November 2017.

It’s one of four unfilled higher-level positions at the city, some of which have been unfilled since spring 2017.

City Manager Christine Smith was fired in March 2017. Human resources manager Barbara Walker was fired in April 2017. Communications manager Jessica Apolloni took leave in early November.

The News first reported in September 2017 that city savings of nearly $550,000 in the second quarter of that fiscal year were due largely to a number of unfilled positions.

During a Sept. 5 standing committee meeting, mayor Dan Curtis expressed concern that staff serving in an “acting” capacity (acting staff are those filling in for a vacant position while still doing their regular jobs) would burn out.

At the time, this included Linda Rapp, who was acting city manager as well as director of community and recreation services.

Myles Dolphin, acting manager of strategic communications, said on Feb. 5 that Rapp is now interim city manager, meaning she’s no longer responsible for community services.

Robert Watts is acting HR manager as well as human resources supervisor. Chris Green is acting fire chief in addition to deputy fire chief.

Dolphin said the HR manager’s position ceased to exist last spring when two new positions (supervisor of HR and director of corporate services) were created. It’s since been determined that a manager’s position is, in fact, needed.

Competition for that job closed Jan. 28. The hope is that the position will be filled by April.

“In terms of city manager recruitment, as the city manager is council’s only employee under the Municipal Act, they’ve taken their role very seriously and have carefully managed their own process,” Dolphin wrote in an email. “To date they have worked through many of the recruitment stages and they are optimistic they will soon be able to announce results.”

Mayor Dan Curtis was not available to speak to the News about that process before press time.

At the standing committees meeting on Feb. 5, council looked briefly at the quarterly progress report for various projects from Nov. 2017 to Jan. 2018.

Recruitment of a new chief was included in that report. According to Dolphin, that posting closed Jan. 21.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu asked, during council, about a timeline for the hiring process.

“I don’t believe we’re at that point yet where we’re going to speculate timelines but we did get a fairly decent response to that recruitment call and they’re working through that process so we’re hoping to move that recruitment along as quickly as possible,” said Rapp.

“So we’re looking more towards the end of the year?” asked Curteanu.

“I would guess that it probably will involve, potentially, relocation and if that ends up being the case then typically it ends up taking a few extra months for that to happen,” said Rapp.

Dolphin said the city anticipates the process will be complete by end of March, but noted the process for hiring a new chief could involve written or practical exams as well as multiple interviews.

In general, he said the timeline the city looks at for hiring (from the beginning of the process to the point where a person in place) is four to six months.

He said that in 2017, the average length of time it took to fill a vacant position was 9.5 weeks.

He said the city uses a combination of options when recruiting. These include the city website, monster.ca and yuwin.ca, as well as other more specialized sites for engineering or accounting positions.

“Almost every job is unique in its recruitment process,” Dolphin wrote in an email.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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