Brian Shawara (left) and Andrew Hubbell (right) pose in the VCF board room. “The board has been fantastic,” Shawara said. “They’ve been really willing to let both of us dig in to the work.” /ABIGAIL POPPLE

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

In late October, Craig Pryor left his position as General Manager of Valemount Community Forest (VCF) for a position in McBride.

At the November VCF board meeting, Brian Shawara, the VCF Operations Supervisor, and Andrew Hubbell, mill manager of the Valemount Industrial Park, stepped in to take over Pryor’s management duties. It’s a management structure that the VCF has never tried before: Hubbell and Shawara will be continuing their old jobs, while sharing general management duties between the two of them.

The two sat down with The Goat last week to discuss the transition.

Pryor left his position with just a few weeks notice in late October – right at the start of the winter harvest season, which Shawara said is a particularly busy time of year.

“Craig was wearing a lot of hats, and so when he left there was a pretty big void of management,” Hubbell explained.

He and Shawara share all the duties of the general management position while juggling the responsibilities they already had under Pryor’s management. For Hubbell, this means making sure the mill is functional and profitable while dealing with finances for the broader company; likewise, Shawara troubleshoots when shippers and contractors run into problems, as well as supervising the general operations of the VCF.

“It’s a steep learning curve,” added Shawara. “But I’m enjoying it.”

Hubbell agreed that it has been a learning experience. In his first six months as the mill operator, he supplied new working equipment for the mill and built relationships with customers – work he is more used to than his current management duties.

“The role I’m more comfortable with is being boots on the ground,” he said. “But we’re getting there […] I think this thing is going the right way.”

Hubbel and Shawara’s joint position is not yet permanent. The VCF board will reassess the situation in a subsequent meeting, likely March or April, Shawara said.

“If I don’t cut the mustard, so be it, I’m a big boy and I can take it,” Shawara joked. “But right now, I think I should be able to do it.”

In the meantime, Hubbell and Shawara are enjoying a good working relationship with the VCF board.

“They really take their mandate to heart,” Shawara said. “They’re passionate, they want to see us succeed. I feel like they’ve given us as much as they can in the situation, a lot of good advice and room to grow.”