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Administrator retires after 34 years of service

Plans help to guide board as local government experiences major transition
Laura Walz

Most people think about local government when an issue arises that affects them personally. For Frances Ladret, local government has been the focus of her professional life for over 30 years.

Ladret, administrator of the Powell River Regional District (PRRD), retires this week. She started working for the regional district in 1977, just 12 years after the provincial government enacted legislation that established local government outside municipal boundaries. Eventually, Ladret became the planner when that position became vacant, then moved into doing the accounting. Her next move was to the municipality and economic development, a job she did for about a year. When the administrator position became vacant at the regional district, the regional district board hired her. Ladret said the types of issues regional districts deal with appealed to her.

The provincial government set up regional districts to provide a vehicle to service outlying areas or to coordinate services between areas, and municipalities and areas, Ladret said. “They were set up more as a service provider than a political entity. This regional district stayed true to that more than a lot of others for the longest time.”

Some years ago, Ladret said, the province did a review of the BC’s 27 regional districts and cited PRRD as a model of what regional districts were made to be. “The politicians were there to give the services people wanted. But over the years it has changed.”

Higher levels of government are putting more on regional districts, Ladret said. As well, in areas of the province where population has grown in electoral areas, regional districts have taken on more of a governance role. Other regional districts follow along with the trends, because that is what regional districts are doing now, Ladret explained. PRRD has a “seemingly simple situation” because it has only one municipality and it is quite small. “You’d think everything would work smoothly, but it doesn’t always.”

In some situations, having only one municipality is an advantage, Ladret said, partly because of Powell River’s isolation. “We’re forced to work together and they do that quite well in a lot of things. I think the disadvantage is that it tends to form a separation. Because the municipality has the bulk of the votes, that can at times create a ‘them-and-us’ attitude.”

Ladret has provided balanced and informed guidance to elected officials, as well as administering the office. She is known for her photographic memory, her attention to detail, her long hours of work and her support for local organizations. Some people can’t imagine how the regional district will operate without her.

In the last few years, the regional district has completed a number of plans that will guide directors in the future, Ladret said, for example the parks and greenspace plan, the solid waste management plan and the cemetery development plan.

As well, the regional district has worked on a staffing plan that will ease the transition after Ladret leaves. It has hired new people as well as shifted existing staff into new positions. “Part of the succession planning, in my mind, is keeping those people who have been here for a long time, and are still going to be here, happy. They’re going to be huge resources.”

While a lot of work comes out of the office with Ladret’s name on it, it’s not all her work, she said. “There are a lot of resources in the office. I feel really good about the people that we’ve managed to hire over the years and the ones who are moving in now.”