Sustainability Commission seeks new manager as visions for sustainable action in 2012 loom large

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
January 5th, 2012

The new year will bring new management to the Sustainability Commission (SC) as former manager Lea Thuot plants new roots on Vancouver Island.

“I have been honoured to work for the Rossland Sustainability Commission,” Thuot wrote prior to her December departure, “and it is with great sadness that I will be leaving. I believe the work the Sustainability Commission and the City of Rossland are doing is leading the way as an exceptional example of how a municipality can envision, plan for, and act towards sustainability.”

“My decision to leave is purely personal as my partner has gained employment on Vancouver Island, and I will be joining him there upon the completion of my contract,” Thuot explained.

Thuot has been the volunteer organization’s sole employee since she was hired to manage the SC in the summer of 2010. SC chairperson Terry Miller said Thuot has done a lot of the “heavy lifting”, such as grant applications and communications, as well as bringing her own ideas to the table.

“We’ve lost a great asset,” Miller said, “she really helped drive a lot of the activities. As a group of volunteers we don’t have the hours in a day, so it’s great to have a paid person, but especially someone with her enthusiasm and qualifications to drive it forward. Rossland really benefited from her; she will be missed.”

Nevertheless, Miller credits the foundation of the SC’s success to “a good core of volunteers” who spend countless hours doing the research and outreach necessary to move forward with programs and studies in the four task forces—energy, water, housing, and economic development—for which the SC is the administrative hub.

Miller meets with council on Jan. 9 to present “the history of the SC, successes to date, and where we hope to go in the future,” after which a “recruitment drive” will be planned.

“We are in talks with council and the CBT right now, which could have a significant effect on the scope of the manager’s job,” Miller said, referring to a number of decisions that need to be made regarding plans and budgets.

Miller said, recruitment won’t begin until the end of January. “Realistically,” he said, “until we have the firm handshake with the new council, it’s a little bit of hurry up and wait. We are soft-pedalling for a few weeks while these talks unfold. No job has been posted, but this will change shortly. In the meantime, the SC will be covering the administration side of the manager’s functions.”

Last year at budget time the SC was the only organization to face cutbacks—$16,000 slashed to leave $45,000 in city funds—by a council that otherwise passed the 2011 budget untouched.

The SC was created by council in 2008 to help guide the city towards the 55 goals in 11 focus areas laid out in the Strategic Sustainability Plan (SSP). The SSP grew from the grassroots Visions to Action (V2A) process spearheaded by concerned citizens in 2006 who wanted the city to plan for a sustainable future. After more than a year of public consultation, the first SSP—described as a “living document”—painted a vision for Rossland in 2030.

Miller describes the group’s work as “leading edge” and asserts that “the eyes of the province” are on Rossland as the town tries to move towards greater sustainability. A short list of SC accomplishments includes establishing baseline data in a set of State of Rossland indicators; efforts to attract “nomadic entrepreneurs” to town; mapping the watershed’s sensitive habitats; playing a key role in a regional housing affordability study and the Communities Adapting to Climate Change project; creating the recent Energy Diet program; and running Earth Day celebrations and Green Drinks gatherings in addition to forging a strong list of local and regional partnerships.

True to the SSP’s status as a living document, Miller said the SC is particularly interested to continue to tap into the public’s ideas. “How has the world changed? Where are we going next?” Miller asked. “One of the things we need to do sometime this spring is connect again with council and the community to check we’re on the right path.”

Thuot said, “There will obviously be some transition for the Commission as they move forward with finding a replacement in the new year but … our commission is alive and well.”

Miller concluded hopefully, “Lea was a fantastic asset to all our efforts, but it’s been tough for her to go too. Rossland’s in her heart. I think we’ll be seeing her again.”

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