DIDSBURY - Didsbury’s new chief administrative officer (CAO) is ready to face the challenges ahead as he steps into the top administrative role at the town.
Ethan Gorner came to the area after working for the Town of High River for about a year.
“I was working in (legislative) services doing bylaws and I ran their census and oversaw assessment review board applications and those type of things,” said Gorner.
“I was helping them out with some projects and doing some contract work for them.”
Gorner was responsible for helping the town go through all its old bylaws and review them and rescind as necessary.
Before working for High River, he worked as CAO for Improvement District #9 in Banff National Park for about six years.
Gorner said he enjoyed his time in Banff although there were many challenges.
“It went well,” he said. “Even though we only had 1,500 local residents, we have over a million visitors through there every year. That creates some issues like congestion. There are times in the summer in Lake Louise where they’re backed up right to the highway.”
Gorner said one of the major initiatives they worked on with their partners at the municipalities of Banff and Canmore was improving transit service.
“There is an excellent transit service now that connects the whole Bow Valley,” he said. “You can go through all of Banff and Lake Louise and not have to get in your car and deal with congestion and parking.
“Good luck finding parking if you do drive in the summer because it’s so packed.”
Gorner said his administration also worked on getting strong recreational services for residents as well as dealing with housing challenges.
“I loved my time there,” he said. “Great people there. Council was excellent. I had a really good experience there.”
Before Banff National Park, Gorner was with the Town of Raymond as director of planning and development for nine years.
Gorner’s wife and two youngest kids still live in Raymond and will finish out the school year there. Of his two older children, one is attending the University of Alberta in Edmonton and another is on a church mission in Ontario.
Gorner took over as CAO in Didsbury on Jan. 6.
The town had been operating under interim CAOs Tony Martens and then Amanda Riley (the current town chief financial officer) since Harold Northcott left in August to take a similar position with the County of Vermillion River.
“A big pull of coming here was the area itself,” he said. “I just love the small-town feel here. The people are wonderful here.”
Gorner said the town is well positioned for the future.
“It’s well set up for some great opportunities to move forward and do some cool things,” he said. “I like the way it’s positioned. As a municipal government, they have a strong municipal structure: a good, strong staff; a good, financial position.
“They’ve been well-governed. There are great opportunities ahead for Didsbury. It’s great to be a part of it.”
Gorner said the challenges facing Didsbury are similar to those of most communities.
“It’s the current economic realities we’re all facing in Alberta,” he said. “There are different factors contributing to that. It’s different realities that people are wrestling with how to make a go of it.”
Gorner said that Didsbury has great projects coming up including the new Buy-Low grocery store, which is expected to open later this summer in town.
“That’s huge,” he said. “That’s exciting for Didsbury. That’ll also bring other commercial development with it.”
Gorner went to university in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island at Malaspina (now Vancouver Island University).
“We’re all excited about moving to town and becoming part of the community,” he said. “We really like it here. We’re still getting used to it but everyone so far has been friendly and welcoming. I’m excited to help Didsbury do some great things and working with the council.”
Gorner said he was impressed with the quality of council.
“They have a really good vision for the town,” he said. “The town has excellent staff as well. I’m so impressed with the level of competency and know-how about the staff. They’re really good people.”