As the new chief administrative officer (CAO) for the village, Anne Yanciw brings plenty of experience to the community and is looking forward to biting her teeth into some of Ashcroft’s local projects and challenges.
“I’m really loving it, I’m loving working with the people here,” she said. “There are some really big things on the horizon, just making sure that we as a municipality are prepared for those big things is part of my learning curve.”
Some of those projects aren’t yet public knowledge, but Yanciw did speak about a few of the village’s plans.
“There’s the Ashcroft Terminal, which is moving quite quickly and is a really big project for this village. There are a couple of really exciting housing developments being proposed, and they’re both in early stages, but that’s where a lot of the municipal work happens in preparation for a project.”
Formerly a CAO in both Smithers and Valemount, Yanciw has worked in municipal government and administration for over 19 years.
She entered local government accidentally, and despite the challenges associated with her position, she believes it’s a great career: “I really think we should be promoting it more.”
With the city of Calgary, Yanciw worked through various departments, gaining a breadth of knowledge that she feels will benefit her employment in a small community.
Still, despite glowing reports from those who have worked alongside her, Yanciw was let go from her past two positions without just cause, a pattern which she attributes to usual political turnover associated with the position.
“Anytime after an election, sometimes councils want a change of direction, and so that was the case in Smithers,” she said. “It’s kind of a hockey coach syndrome, so there’s a lot of turnover in CAOs this year, I’ve seen.”
Yanciw served as the CAO in Smithers from December 2015 to January 2019. Her departure was reported in March 2019, when the community’s Mayor Taylor Bachrach confirmed that she was let go without cause.
The municipality paid Yanciw $96,413 in severance in lieu of notice, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request filed by The Interior News.
In July 2015, Yanciw experienced a strikingly similar situation when she was let go without cause from the same position with the Village of Valemount.
Valemount’s newly elected council contracted an organization review, noting a strained relationship between Yanciw and then-mayor Jeanette Townsend that resulted in a “negative impact on Village operations and public confidence.”
The 2015 report found no fault with Yanciw’s performance and presented no justifiable cause for her termination.
When contacted by Black Press Media, Townsend said she legally could not comment on what led to Yanciw’s removal.
Former Valemount mayor Andru McCracken helped hire Yanciw during his term from 2011 to 2014, where she was promoted from deputy corporate officer to CAO.
“We hired her within house and found her wonderful and forward-thinking. It was great. Then an election came and the powers that be changed at the Village of Valemount,” said McCracken.
“Basically, there was a little bit of a witch hunt,” he recalled. “The council of the day paid $20,000 to an external person to say, you know, as the new mayor suspects – is Anne Yanciw, is she not fit for the job? The answer was no. She was doing a good job. But there was an unworkable relationship between that mayor and Anne Yanciw.”
McCracken emphasized the complexity of the CAO’s role and the frequency with which individuals are shuffled through the position in municipal government.
“It’s a tricky job and everybody has their knives out, especially when you’re going through a transition,” he said. “It’s about butting heads.”
McCracken said that he imagines when an able administrator is getting things done, noses might get put out of joint.
“To me, Anne Yanciw is tremendously hard-working, talented, and she’ll be a benefit to Ashcroft. As long as they can keep her, she’s going to be doing great work.”
Yanciw has been working in Ashcroft for about a month now and Mayor Barbara Roden was well aware of her previous positions in both Valemount and Smithers when Yanciw was hired.
The hiring decision was made by all members of council, who interviewed four candidates in Ashcroft before unanimously agreeing upon Yanciw as their first choice.
“She’s been in local government for quite a long time, she’s got a lot of experience, which is really, really helpful.”
Roden expressed that it was great to see how many people knew Yanciw and greeted her warmly during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), an annual conference that Yanciw has attended about eight times.
As for Yanciw’s employment history, Roden said it’s fairly common for small communities to make CAO changes during election time: “It does not mean that the previous CAO has done anything wrong, it just means that council feels that they want to go in a new direction.”
She’s confident that the village made the right choice in hiring Yanciw and noted that Ashcroft was fortunate to have its previous CAO, Michelle Allen, hold the position for many years. Typically, CAOs come and go quite frequently, she said.
Roden has enjoyed working with Yanciw so far and is excited to have her on board.
“She’s got experience in small communities and with many of the same issues that Ashcroft faces, so that is really going to help us going forward because we have some big plans on the horizon.”