By Greg Price
Long-serving Municipal District of Taber chief administrative officer Derrick Krizsan was recognized by his peers earlier this month in Kananaskis with the Society of Local Government Manager’s Award of Excellence.
The SLGM Award of Excellence recognizes the efforts, contributions and continuing learning process individuals make in their pursuit of excellence and desire to have a positive impact on or in their community in relation to the field of local government management.
The award is open to any regular, associate, or student member of the Society of Local Government Managers. Members of the association are both rural and urban, municipalities or counties, right across the province. The award is open to people employed by the provincial government along with other types of government service.
Krizsan, a Barnwell resident, was the ag fieldman for six years before transitioning to his role of CAO with the M.D. of Taber for the last 13 years.
“I thank the people that I work with. There is not a single individual CAO in any municipality who could be awarded this award without benefiting from the incredible people that they are surrounded with at all levels of a municipal organization,” said Krizsan. “It’s a team effort, municipal government is a team sport. We have to work together to accomplish our many goals. Anything that I have accomplished in my 13 years I give credit to the staff here at the M.D., they are professional in every regard.”
The staff/workforce Krizsan speaks of covers over 4,200 square kilometres with well over 7,000 people residing in the area in dealing with the many different needs of the M.D. of Taber and the hamlets of Enchant, Grassy Lake, Hays, Johnson’s Addition and Purple Springs, along with building relationships with Taber, Barnwell and Vauxhall and various counties surrounding the region in intermunicipal agreements.
“I have negotiated and executed dozens of Intermunicipal agreements that will stand the test of time,” said Krizsan.
Krizsan, in his role of CAO helps oversee a yearly M.D. budget which hovers around the $16-$17 million mark, not including school foundation.
“The position of a CAO is sort of unique in a municipal organization. You are the only employee of council and you are in an organization without any peers,” said Krizsan.
“You are a hub in a wheel where the spokes are the council, the staff and the citizens. You find yourself in the middle of many conflicting interests and it’s up to you to provide information to council for policies to be developed to address those conflicts in a satisfactory way. It’s a very unique position. You are charged with implementing the strategic vision of council and implementing the policies that are passed. You have to ensure the vision and the values of your municipality align with your community.”
Krizsan highlighted the area has been humming with positive activity, including the upcoming Grand Opening of the Prairie Gold Produce Ltd. and Vauxhall and District Regional Water Services Commission water supply project at Prairie Gold’s plant four kilometres east of Vauxhall on June 10.
“Some of the things I’ve been so fortunate enough to be involved in that have been so unique in decades of continued service to the municipality are the two regional water service commissions, with Vauxhall regional and Highway 3 regional,” said Krizsan. “The M.D. is a managing partner of those two commissions and we have a utility staff that are just so diligent in ensuring there is water and safety. We provide water to over 10,000 people in the town of Vauxhall, the M.D. of Taber, County of Forty Mile and the town of Bow Island.”
Krizsan beams with pride on the progress the M.D. has been able to achieve that has positively influenced the region, which he has witnessed during his tenure as municipal administrator. That includes facilitating the transfer of 60,000 acres of tax recovery land back to the M.D. of Taber, returning hundreds of millions of dollars of property to the M.D. of Taber that will contribute to sustaining the social fabric of the M.D.’s small communities as well as contribute to the environmental sustainability of the community for many years. Also, Krizsan assisted the modernization and expansion of the municipal airports, which are integral to our agricultural community. The hamlets in the M.D. of Taber have seen growth through residential, commercial and industrial lot construction.
“Also, other projects in recent years is our shooting range. I have assisted with the design and construction of a world-class shooting facility and developed an organizational structure, which will operate this facility for many years to come,” said Krizsan. “We’ve had huge improvements in our municipal assets right across the municipality with roads, bridges and culverts.”
There was the opening of the $7 million dollar M.D. of Taber operations and maintenance facility in the summer of 2018 that has been dubbed a ‘100-year-building’ in its life expectancy.
The building is approximately 33,000 square feet. The facility will house 45 employees of the M.D. of Taber Public Works and Agricultural Service Board including: surveying, equipment maintenance, safety, grading, graveling, gravel crushing, construction, projects and maintenance crews, road spraying, mowing, municipal parks, recreation and cemetery maintenance, landfills, recycling, crop inspections, crop surveying and horticulture services.
“That building is going to be here when our great-grand children are gray,” said Krizsan.
Other inroads the M.D. has made with Krizsan as CAO has been the regionalization of its fire service back in March of 2017, under instructions from council.
“It’s an incredible initiative where we have 115 volunteer firefighters in six stations operating a regional service at a net cost of just over $700,000. In comparison to other regional services, it is incredible,” said Krizsan. “Engaging volunteers for firefighters and other things like recreation boards, library boards —volunteerism in a rural municipality, you can’t place a value on that. It makes services affordable in our rural communities and it engages people in ways that enable them to take ownership of their communities. The peace officer program is another example, staffing it with fine individuals who have made a positive impact in the community.”
Speaking of volunteerism, Krizsan serves as a volunteer firefighter, as well as a volunteer on many different boards and committees, along with working behind the scenes supporting volunteers in the community.
From when the last municipal election was called up until April 2019, M.D. council had averaged 42 minutes per meeting in closed (in-camera) session with an average overall meeting length of five hours and 15 minutes.
“We try and engage our citizens as much as possible, through our quarterly newsletters, our annual general meetings, our public hearings and the ways we openly and willingly accept comments from the public and we try to operate in a way that is fair and transparent,” said Krizsan.
For Krizsan’s award, nominees are judged on criteria that include the continued pursuit of education and/or professional development, exemplary service and dedication in the field of local government administration, their impact on the profession of local government management, and attendance at the Municipal Administration Leadership Workshop and Awards Ceremony.
“What I believe it comes down to is we have a municipal organization that is staffed with incredible people, incredibly dedicated and capable people. What this award means to me is it will be a constant reminder of the success you can achieve by working together as a team,” said Krizsan. “What I am most proud of has been the recruitment, mentoring, training and empowerment of municipal staff. I attribute any success I have had to their support, hard work and diligence. It has been an incredible opportunity and unique experience to be raised in a community and then to serve it in the capacity of Municipal Administrator.”
SLGM’s Award of Excellence for Krizsan was presented by a member of the firm of Brownlee LLP. It consists of a keepsake bronze buffalo crafted by Cornie Martens of Lost Wax Bronze Ltd. along with a cash award of $3,000 to be spent on a continuing education course of study of Krizsan’s choice.