As heated as municipal politics get in Penticton, the city has nothing on Nanaimo.
A special prosecutor in that Vancouver Island community recently dismissed a complaint against a council member accused of assaulting the city manager at an in-camera meeting.
Meanwhile, the mayor has been named in multiple civil lawsuits – including one launched by the City of Nanaimo itself.
By comparison, municipal politics in Penticton look quite dull.
To help keep things that way, the city has hired Philip Cooper as its new communications manager.
He started in Penticton this week after being laid off in September by the City of Nanaimo, where he held a similar post for five years.
Cooper, 44, described the situation in Nanaimo as “not ideal.”
“When you have a lot of disruption, you aren’t able to focus on the strategic priorities as well as you could. And you have to put a lot of attention on dealing with unconventional circumstances that are a distraction,” he said.
But there is a silver lining: “I feel having worked there I’ve grown a lot professionally.”
Originally from Victoria, Cooper has bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Western Ontario, a post-graduate diploma in corporate communications from Seneca College in Toronto, and a master’s degree in applied communications from Royal Roads University in Victoria.
Before arriving in Nanaimo, he worked in communications for the B.C government and the local government in Fort McMurray.
He was drawn to Penticton by its amenities and location, plus the management team in place at City Hall.
“This is one of those places in Canada that there’s stuff going on – and that brings benefits and challenges – but it’s definitely a place where things are happening,” said Cooper.
In his spare time, he enjoys outdoors activities, such as skiing, hiking and kayaking.
And at the office, Cooper, who has two people reporting to him, has dual responsibilities serving both the public and city staff.
“There’s a need to have a managed communications function that is able to both support the work of council and staff through identifying opportunities and working to get information out to the public,” he explained.
“And on the other side, there’s a strong need to do effective planning internally so that announcements are well thought out, the public is notified with good notice in things they should be included on, and you’re then engaging in a process that everyone agrees is a sound exercise in community engagement.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said he’s already received a call from Nanaimo’s mayor, who spoke highly of Cooper.
“It is an important position so I’m happy to see it filled. Philip brings a level of enthusiasm, energy, and knowledge in municipal affairs to help inform and communicate with the community,” Jakubeit said in a statement.
Cooper is the fourth person in five years to hold the job.