City manager Byron Johnson, left, Wendy Coombs, Ken Coombs and Mayor Bob Simpson posed for a photo following Ken’s retirement presentation in the city council chambers on Dec. 5. This marked the second time Ken has retired from the city. KEN ALEXANDER PHOTO

Ken Coombs retires again

Longtime Quesnel employee came back to clean up a public works department in disarray

City manager Byron Johnson gave a clever and humorous retirement presentation to Capital Works and Infrastructure director Ken Coombs at the Dec. 5 council meeting.

This marked Coombs second retirement from the City of Quesnel.

After an unsuccessful attempt at a replacement for him four years earlier, Johnson said ‘the department was in disarray, senior staff had left or were leaving, morale was at an all time low and work was not getting done.”

After the former director left, Johnson said he attended a debriefing session with the remaining supervisors and asked them what the next step should be.

“Every single person in that room said to bring Ken Coombs back.

“Ken had a three-part mandate for coming back to the City: get our house in order; finish training the next generation of leaders for public works; and do a pile of projects.”

Johnson said Coombs accomplished these goals.

Mayor Bob Simpson fondly recalled his first meeting with Coombs at a Capital Planning meeting.

Simpson said he was full of energy and eager to start building projects, but Coombs slowed him down with a wise but gentle reminder about what the consequences of one move would have on other things.

Coombs signed a three-month contract with the City to see how well he could turn the situation around and he said, “the next thing I knew, 45 months had passed by.”

Coombs said he was looking forward to retirement.

He smiled and said, “Then I can become one of those old armchair generals.”

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