New city manager: ‘City financial health’ a priority

George Murray has begun his new job with the City of Abbotsford.

George Murray

George Murray

George Murray has faced a learning curve in the six weeks since his appointment as Abbotsford’s new city manager, but he is prepared to catch up on city operations quickly.

“You can look from the outside of an organization and think you understand how decisions were made… but you truly don’t understand until you get inside.”

Murray started his new position on Monday, leaving his previous role as the chief administrative officer of the Fraser Valley Regional District. He was appointed in December after the resignation of former city manager Frank Pizzuto.

Mayor Bruce Banman said the turnaround was quick, but as Murray had previously been shortlisted for the position in 2008, it was a good choice following the “unexpected” resignation of Pizzuto.

Murray said he’s used his free time since his appointment to catch up on all things city hall – reading master plans, budgets, and reports.

The changeover of managers led council to put certain debates on the back burner until Murray has had time to review the issues, particularly a proposed core services review and the proposal for a YMCA facility.

Murray said the YMCA tops his list of items that will be dealt with as soon as possible. The “overall financial health of the city” is another priority – something that will factor into his decision on whether to recommend the city conduct a core services review.

But Murray, a certified general accountant, said finances won’t be his only focus.

“I’m an accountant, but I’d like to think I am going to spend just as much time working on systems, processes, governance and culture,” he said.

Murray intends to provide leadership to each department and let them do their designated work. He said he is one part of a team that relies on the exchange of information and expertise between employees.

Public engagement with local government is something Murray said he finds admirable, and he places an importance on making information available. He said his aim is to provide transparency on city operations while focusing on results.

“The challenge is providing enough information that the public understands why we do things, but not spending all of our time trying to explain it instead of doing the job and getting things done.”

Murray said his opinions on city issues will be made available to council, and therefore, the public.

“When I know the Y issue, we will do a public report to council. When I know what I think of the financial issues, we’ll do a report to council.”

For now, he plans to learn as much as possible to best serve and engage the community.

“I hope we provide more insight into how we do the job of local government.”