Anne Yanciw. /RMG FILE PHOTO

By Spencer Hall, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

The Village of Valemount has hired Anne Yanciw as its new Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Officer, filling the position after the departure of former CAO Eric Depenau in October.

Yanciw told The Goat she chose to apply for the position because she enjoys the community.

“I’ve made really good friends in Valemount. It’s a place that just charms you with all of the lovely scenery, amazing recreation opportunities, and the community vibe,” Yanciw said.

Yanciw previously served as the Village’s CAO from 2012 to 2015, before being let go by the Village. A third party organizational review at the time found the Village was being run efficiently and said there was no cause for terminating the CAO. The $20,000 report pointed to a strained relationship between CAO and then-mayor Jeannette Townsend and said it was important to solve this as it was compromising Village operations and public confidence.
Following her time in Valemount, Yanciw took a CAO position with the Town of Smithers, which she held for three years before stepping into the same position with the Village of Ashcroft in 2019. She began working as a local government consultant in March 2020.

The Village says Yanciw will play a crucial role in advancing council initiatives listed in Valemount’s 2023-27 strategic plan, which include exploring partnership opportunities with local First Nations and improving Valemount’s emergency preparedness and the Village’s ability to respond to emergencies.

“Anne brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the village with an impressive background in emergency management, inter”┬Égovernmental and First Nations relations as well as navigating complex provincial legislation. These attributes are critical to the future success of the Village and the region,” Mayor Torgerson said.

Yanciw said in any CAO role, emergency management and preparedness is always a key part of the job.

“Emergency preparedness isn’t sexy but, when an emergency hits, you realize the value of it. I’ve always made a point of really focusing on emergency preparedness when I’ve been a CAO,” Yanciw said.

She said this is partly because just a few weeks after stepping into the role of CAO in Valemount back in 2012, Swift Creek flooded, resulting in several residences needing to be evacuated.

“We almost lost all of the village water infrastructure. We had to evacuate people. It was a really dire situation for a while and it highlighted for me the importance of emergency management,” Yanciw said.

She said before serving as Valemount CAO in 2012, she worked for the City of Calgary, spending some of her time there at a 9-1-1 evaluation and dispatch center, which bolstered her knowledge of how to prepare for emergencies.

“We had to have an emergency plan for what happens if a bomb goes off or some other really drastic thing happens to the communication center, because it’s kind of the heartbeat of emergency management,” Yanciw said, “That kind of background has really reinforced for me the importance of emergency management and help build some of the skills in building a good emergency preparedness plan.”

Yanciw says she’s passionate about advancing relationships with regional First Nation governments. When she was previously CAO in Valemount, she worked alongside other elected officials to develop the first protocol agreement with Simpcw First Nation. While working in other communities, she’s also worked to bring in Indigenous awareness trainers for municipal staff, which she said supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 57th call to action.

“It’s one of the easiest ones for local governments to implement. It calls on all levels of government to provide Indigenous awareness training to all of their staff. It’s easy to do so I always made that a focus,” Yanciw said, adding that while working in Smithers, she helped bring the town into compliance with its protocol agreement with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en.

“The protocol agreement called for quarterly meetings between staff and that had never happened, so we implemented that. It really brought a lot of value to the organization just in terms of staff awareness,” Yanciw said.

Moving forward, a priority for Yanciw in her first few months on the job includes assembling a “think tank” of groups and individuals involved in housing, such as the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society, which will allow her to understand the challenges of delivering local housing and how the Village can help.

Another focus will be improving community engagement. She pointed out that not enough people ran in the Village’s last election, requiring council to appoint two councilors.

“I would like to understand what barriers existed or what incentives were lacking. Just to bring people to an elected position or to put their name forward as a candidate,” Yanciw said.

She said she’d like to provide residents with information on what it’s like to be an elected official. what the role involves, and how to prepare for elected office.

“I’m appreciative of this council for giving me this opportunity to help them,” Yanciw said, “When I look back at when I was a CAO [in Valemount the first time], I certainly have a lot more experience right now. I can certainly bring a lot more to the table, I think, than I could then. I’m really appreciative of this council for offering me this opportunity. I’m really excited to work with them.”
Yanciw began her new position with the Village on November 27th.