It’s always nice to be recognized for job well done. But when you’re recognized by your peers and colleagues, it’s all the sweeter.
Wallace Mah was recently awarded with a leadership award through the Local Government Management Association. While he’s currently the Chief Administrative Officer for the District of Kent, he’s held similar positions in the towns of Ucluelet and Smithers.
It’s a combination of his work in all three communities that he was recognized for. And he’s thrilled that the recommendation came from the staff he works with today.
“The leadership award identifies key people in our profession, in local government, that had a positive impact on our communities,” Mah said. “I’m sure there are quite a few people out there doing a good job. I think it’s a pretty high honour when your peers and colleagues recognize you for your work.”
Mah was working in Ucluelet from 1990 to 1996, during the height of the Clayoquot Sound movement.
“One of the things we did there was the walking trail, and put in a new water system,” he says. The trail runs from Ucluelet to the Ucluelet Tofino junction.
In Smithers, Mah was able to bring to fruition a 25-year dream to improve the local highway.
“That was a pretty lengthy project,” he said, taking about two and a half years to accomplish.
He facilitated negotiations between the ministry of highways, ICBC and the municipality. At the time, he said, the province was “downloading” a lot of responsibilities to local governments. That would have included a rundown section of Highway 16, which was badly in need of repair and was known as a high-accident area.
They went into negotiations with the basis that “before they turned it over they should make a commitment to improve it,” Mah said.
It was an $18 million project, and one of key highlights in his career so far.
Here in Kent, he feels council and staff are making good progress, too.
“The positive things I’m proud of here are meeting the visionary goals of council here, completing the Breakwater project and putting in the two crosswalks that were desperately needed as a safety measure,” he said.
But it doesn’t end with infrastructure.
“Another big accomplishment was working with the First Nations on the memorandum of understanding,” he said. “We have a fantastic mayor and a superb council in terms of getting things accomplished. They’re goal driven and they allow staff the latitude to get things done.”
He says working for local government is a job opportunity more people should consider when looking at schooling.
His advice to young people is to academically pursue public administration through post-secondary institutions that offer the proper coursework, such as UVic, Malaspina or Camosun.
“There’s opportunities in local government and not everyone pursues it because they don’t know what it entails,” he says. “But we are there to serve the public. That’s what we do.”