In an acting role since Sadhu Johnston announced his retirement last fall, Mochrie has always been high on council’s shortlist of candidates for the job.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart said as much in a news release dated Sept. 17, 2020 that announced the recruitment of a new city manager was underway.
“City council has full confidence in Mr. Mochrie’s leadership and the experience he brings from his nearly five years as deputy city manager,” Stewart said at the time.
On Tuesday, the city issued another news release confirming council’s trust in Mochrie and officially announced his appointment as city manager.
Mochrie joined the city in May 2011 as the general manager of human resources services. He became deputy city manager in October 2015.
His appointment comes as the city continues to face one of its most challenging periods in its history, both internally and in the community.
The pandemic has affected the city’s revenues, caused layoffs, pay cuts and temporarily closed services such as libraries and community centres.
The pandemic has also further exposed the crises of homelessness, affordability and overdose deaths, which are topics Mochrie knows well as a senior bureaucrat at city hall.
He’s also familiar with the politics tied to such issues, having participated in numerous meetings with the current and previous council.
The safety of women, accessible housing and childcare are other issues Mochrie recognized in a news release issued last month regarding the city’s women’s equity strategy.
“We know that women continue to face difficulties in accessing childcare, housing and safety in public spaces, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these issues,” he said.
Publicly, Mochrie has been a point person with media over the city’s concerns — and then purchase — of the Balmoral and Regent hotels in the Downtown Eastside.
He has also been the city’s representative at public meetings related to homeless camps, including the now-defunct Oppenheimer Park encampment.
Mochrie told a meeting of park board commissioners in September 2019 that it was impossible for the city to manage an uncontrolled outdoor homeless camp — a comment that has carried over with the current Strathcona Park camp, which has been the scene of violence, overdose deaths, fires and the arrest of a murder suspect.
In 2017, Mochrie was a member of the city’s development permit board when he cast the lone vote to allow Beedie Development Group to construct a nine-storey residential building at 105 Keefer St; Beedie has since taken its fight to develop the Chinatown property to court, launching legal action against the City of Vancouver
Mochrie’s leadership will be tested in many ways in the months and years ahead as he oversees a corporate team charged with adjusting and adapting plans and finances to fit into a post-pandemic city.
That includes issues related to climate change, affordability and development of a Vancouver Plan amid competing interests of neighbourhood residents, developers and politicians.
As the departure of previous city managers has shown, Mochrie having a strong relationship with city council will be important to his longevity in the position.
When Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver won a majority in 2008, then-city manager Judy Rogers was dumped less than a week after city council was inaugurated.
Penny Ballem became the new city manager, only to have Vision part ways with her in September 2015. At the time, Robertson said the city needed “a fresh approach” to the issues facing the city.
Johnston, who was also hired under Vision Vancouver, announced last September that he was retiring to spend more time with family.
His last day was in January.
In the city's release Tuesday, the mayor and each councillor provided a quote that celebrated Mochrie's appointment.
Here's a sampling:
Stewart: “On behalf of Vancouver city council, I’m thrilled to have Paul Mochrie take on the critical role of Vancouver’s city manager at precisely the moment when our city needs someone of his professionalism, talent, and dedication to the community,”
OneCity's Christine Boyle: “Paul Mochrie is a thoughtful and capable leader, with a demonstrated commitment to equity and Reconciliation."
The Green Party's Adriane Carr: “Paul Mochrie has everything I’m looking for in our new city manager: intelligence, a people person, and the deep understanding of our city that’s needed for us to chart the best possible COVID recovery and future.”
The NPA's Colleen Hardwick :“Paul will have a steady hand to see the City of Vancouver through the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Independent Rebecca Bligh: “Paul Mochrie is a dedicated civil servant with proven capacity and skills to lead our city through one of the most challenging times, and beyond. I am thrilled to have Paul as our new city manager.”
The appointment of Mochrie comes as the city’s planning director Gil Kelley parted ways last month with the city after reaching a “mutual and congenial” agreement with council; Theresa O’Donnell, a deputy director of planning, has taken over for Kelley as interim replacement.
In the past few years, the city has seen several top managers either move on or retire, including chief engineer Jerry Dobrovolny (now administrative officer for Metro Vancouver), homelessness director Abi Bond (City’s of Toronto’s executive director of its Housing Secretariat), fire chief Darrell Reid (Strathcona County’s chief commissioner), park board general manager Malcolm Bromley (retired) and longtime director of communications Rena Kendall-Craden (retired).
Jessie Adcock, the city’s general manager of development, buildings and licensing, told colleagues last week that she is leaving the city to take a job with Finning Canada.
The current council, which was elected in October 2018, is comprised of a mix of political party representatives and two independents (the mayor and Bligh) and is up for re-election in October 2022.
Mochrie earned $277,563 last year, according to the city’s annual Statement of Financial Information released last month. He now oversees a $1.6 billion operating budget with approximately 7,700 employees.