After many months without a CAO, the District of Wells has a new Chief Administrative Officer, bringing one of its own employees up the ranks.
Donna Forseille became the District’s CAO in March. Before that, she was the corporate officer for just over two years.
Forseille lives in Quesnel and commutes to Wells.
“My husband and I are looking at different houses in town right now that have recently come up for sale, but it’s pretty hard to find a rental or anything else there right now,” she said. “I don’t mind the drive. In all the different seasons, that drive is beautiful.
Forseille ended up working for the District of Wells when she applied for an advertisement for the District Clerk position at the end of 2016.
“It’s kind of just gone from there,” she said. “It’s been great that way [to build up within the same organization].”
The CAO oversees and makes recommendations and directs council and mayor, makes decisions with regards to agendas for the council meetings and looks over the entirety of the municipality’s operations. She said normally, someone in the role would meet up with department heads and make sure everybody is good to go and just kind of be a helping arm wherever they need to be.
“In Wells, it’s a little different — in Wells, your CAO is your finance officer and kind of a jack-of-all-trades, but most employees who work for us have to be because you have to adapt to a smaller office but still having all the same departments,” she said.
Forseille was excited when the opportunity to work in Wells came up.
“I’ve always kind of been pulled toward smaller areas,” she said. “My husband and I have been in Quesnel since 2004, but we had the McLeese Lake Resort for six years. When I left there, I took a year off and wanted to do something in my management field of work but something different and somewhere where I could grow. When I saw the opportunity come up in Wells, I thought it was a good fit because it’s somewhere where both my husband and I could retire and be happy because it’s such a unique little creative community. It stays in the Cariboo area that we love so much. We’ve always been in the Cariboo area.”
Forseille says right now, the municipality only has two staff members as they try to fill vacant positions, which is a challenge.
“The other challenge is actually getting staff because we don’t have the housing,” she said. “Our superintendent of Public Works has no place to go, so at this time, he’s actually bought a motorhome to live in for the summer. And we have a very short season, so even for our Public Works superintendent, he’s got a solid two months to get all our projects done, maybe three.”
After a year that saw the mayor and one councillor resign in February 2018, a by-election in June 2018 and the municipal election in October 2018, which brought another new mayor, Forseille feels things are moving forward for the District, and she feels positive.
“I think right now, since the election, we have a very good working relationship with council,” she said. “We have a very gung-ho, young council that are hands-on and have a lot of forward-moving ideas, so that is going really well right now. The community is a very warm, welcoming community. They really strive on tourism, so we need to figure out that challenge where we can keep people in Wells longer instead of them just travelling through to Barkerville. But it’s great to work together between all the businesses, including Barkerville, to try and have one common goal, and that’s working to keep the economics in Wells moving forward, together. The residents are kind of like one big family.”
The District has recently hired an Office Assistant, who will start in June.
The position of Economic Development Officer still needs to be filled, and they are still filling two seasonal labourer positions, who do groundskeeping and facility maintenance on District-owned facilities such as the community hall, the fire hall, the school, and parks as well.
“This year will be a little different as well,” said Forseille. “The District was awarded wildfire mitigation funding, so this summer, as well as last summer, we’ll carry on with that wildfire mitigation around the corridor of town and concentrating on economic recovery, so we will be putting into place some sort of plan to add to our marketing and advertising to make tourists feel more welcome when they come into town, things like picnic tables, so passers by might stop and having lunch at one of our local restaurants.”
She says they also want to focus on getting their trail networks out there more.
“Wells has a very unique and awesome trails network,” she said.