Ucluelet’s district office has a new captain at the helm.
Duane Lawrence put his first day in as the town’s chief administrative officer on Aug. 30 after spending the past 10 years serving as the District of Sparwood’s Director of Community and Facility Services, where he oversaw parks, recreation and trails along with other portfolios including being a community liaison for Sparwood’s population of roughly 3,784.
Lawrence told the Westerly News the Sparwood position was the longest one he had ever held after starting his career in aquatics and parks and recreation, moving throughout B.C. and internationally, along with stints in the non-profit sector including positions with the Canadian Cancer Society and Pacific Sport.
A graduate of the University of Victoria, Lawrence said the Ucluelet position was “a wonderful opportunity” to relocate back to Vancouver Island.
“I spent a lot of time during the winter months surfing on Long Beach in my college and university days, so this was a great opportunity as well as just the right time for me to move on to another position,” he said.
He arrived with his wife Theresa Lawrence who is now the Ucluelet Co-op’s new pharmacist.
“We’re big outdoor enthusiasts. We’ve gone on a couple of kayaking day-trips already,” he said. “Re-exploring the local coastline is definitely a key priority.”
He added that along with the breathtaking landscape, the town’s locals have been exemplary in welcoming the new couple to town.
“From all the people that we’ve met so far, it’s a very welcoming community, very enjoyable and really beautiful,” he said. “It totally lived up to expectations. It’s the West Coast. Ucluelet’s right beside a National Park Reserve, which is just absolutely phenomenal. How can you not love coming to the West Coast?”
He noted Ucluelet’s economy has diversified from the resource-based community he visited often in the 1990’s.
“It was a pleasant surprise. It was really nice to see the development that has occurred to a certain extent and that transition that has occurred overtime from just the resource industry to the tourism industry as well. It looks like there’s a little bit of a balance so far and hopefully that will continue into the future,” he said.
He said his first impression of his new colleagues at the district office has been “wonderful.”
“Ucluelet has a great senior management team at the office here and all the employees that I’ve met so far have been very welcoming and very open. I’ve been getting to know them over the last couple of weeks here and they’re great,” he said.
He added that he’s also been impressed with the town’s municipal council, his new bosses.
“So far, my impressions are that we have a very engaged, active council that really cares about the community and I’m really looking forward to working with them,” he said.
This is Lawrence’s first CAO position and he said his top priority is to help move the priorities identified by the community and council forward effectively and efficiently while also improving efficiencies, fluidness and communications to make sure residents are aware of what their local government is up to, adding housing is top of mind.
“I know just from the short time that I’ve been here that there’s concern in the community about the balance between development, housing needs for the community and staffing as well as balancing that with the wonderful natural experience that we have here in Ucluelet,” he said. “Figuring out a way to make that growth that’s needed to accommodate the workers that businesses need while balancing the desire of the community to maintain that rural West Coast feel and the green space that we have and pulling all those together and making sure that we can balance all of that, that’s going to be a tricky one.”
READ MORE: Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen resigns