Monday, 20 September 2010

A Farewell to Laubenstein

Last week the R.M. of Wood Buffalo 'outed' the fact that Glen Laubenstein would leave Winnipeg to be their CAO. It turns out that his departure will be immediate.

I worked with Glen on a few projects back in his Brandon days and met him when he was in Kingston. I didn't get a chance to reconnect with him when he returned to Manitoba so I don't have any comments or insight on the current situation.

The sense I got is that
Glen was a 'big ideas' guy. Go for lunch with him and he would talk for an hour about new management styles, a 'whole new way to look at the waste / landfill system' in cities etc.. I found a PowerPoint presentation that he gave while City Manager for Kingston, (the link is for an html version). A couple of his points on the management of cities, (and what lunch with Glen sounded a lot like):

- It is not thoughtless people, but faulty and over-complicated systems and procedures which cause most errors and wasteful practices in an organization.

- In small and well run companies, managers with common sense and flexibility of mind can prevent excessive checks and controls and keep the operation simple. As organizations grow larger, the stifling restraints of bureaucracy multiply unless top management takes steps to counteract them and to encourage real accountability.

Glen spoke fondly of his time at Fort Mac and I think a big part of it was due to the fact that the city went from being a backwater to one of the most prosperous and fastest-growing urban regions in the country in a short period. (I believe that the now-amalgamated Fort Mac / R.M. of Wood Buffalo, land mass-wise, is the largest city in North America !).

In Fort Mac, development and infrastructure had to be added quickly and without the burden of 125 or more years of 'this is how we do it here'. New ways could be, and had to be, tried to keep up with development.

Coming from that situation, and a somewhat booming Richmond B.C. prior to that, he latched on to a string of conservative, entrenched cities. Brandon, Winnipeg and Kingston aren't exactly cutting edge in terms of urban policy or having an outsider coming in to tell them how they should change.

I have a lot of respect for Glen, his ideas and his passion for them. Whether all of his ideas were 100% workable or whether a different personal style could have brought them further along, I can't say because I never worked in an administration with him.

I was not shocked, though, when I heard that he was returning to a place like Fort Mac. That city and the people there suited him and, in the end, most people want to work where they feel that they can make the best contribution.

Best of luck, Glen.

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