Star­land CAO to re­tire in spring

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

After al­most 30 years, a name that has be­come syn­ony­mous with Star­land County and steady guid­ance, Ross Rawlusyk, has de­cided to re­tire.

Rawlusyk has been at the helm of Star­land County as CAO since the late 1980s and after nearly three decades, he laughs and says he is fi­nally go­ing to take a sum­mer off.

“Ten­ta­tively I said the end of April, I would fin­ish, but depend­ing on the how the re­place­ment process goes, I would work for a while after that if they need it,” he said.

Rawlusyk grew up in the Hanna area, and stud­ied Com­merce and Ge­og­ra­phy at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary. He then took a spe­cial­ized com­mu­nity plan­ning pro­gram at Mount Royal Col­lege. He worked in Cal­gary for about a year, when he was in­vited home to work at the just form­ing Pal­liser Re­gional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

“Sam Dookie, who was the mayor of Hanna was work­ing with Bill Doyle. At the time, Drumheller’s plan­ning was with the Cal­gary re­gion, as was Star­land, and Spe­cial Ar­eas was with Hanna, and all of their plan­ning ser­vices were com­ing out of Ed­mon­ton. Nei­ther were happy with the level of service they were get­ting, so they pe­ti­tioned the prov­ince to form a new plan­ning com­mis­sion,” Rawlusyk ex­plains. “He knew I had taken plan­ning and he phoned and asked me if I wanted a job.”

“For sure I was the first em­ployee at Pal­liser, I might have been the first warm body in the of­fice!”

It was a good fit, es­pe­cially be­cause so many plan­ners at the time were from larger cen­tres, Rawlusyk knew ru­ral. This was in 1978, and he worked there for about nine years, when he learned the CAO po­si­tion was open­ing in Star­land.

“The Reeve of the County was on the Pal­liser board, and he said ‘you should ap­ply,’” re­calls Rawlusyk of the be­gin­ning of his new ca­reer.

Look­ing back, Rawlusyk guided the county through var­i­ous coun­cils and reeves, as well as pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments. When he started, Don Getty was premier, and then Ralph Klein in 1992.

“When Ralph came in, I think I had just fig­ured out how all the bud­get stuff worked, and at the time, the County had al­most no re­serves at all. Ralph did the cuts, and the one I re­mem­ber was the Mu­nic­i­pal As­sis­tance Grant, it went from $620,000 down to $6,000. That was a 20 per cent chunk

out of our bud­get, and by the time we found out it was the end of March when they do their bud­get, so we were about one-third through the year. It was a tough year - we had to let peo­ple go.”

There were also good years and many ac­com­plish­ments. When he be­gan at the county it was in charge of sec­ondary high­ways, and he man­aged to work with his coun­cil to make great progress in paving, in­clud­ing the Ver­dant Val­ley Road.

“The coun­cil­lors, my­self and Stan Schu­macher lob­bied ex­ten­sively un­til we fi­nally got it re­done,” he said.

They were also able to im­prove High­way 839 from High­way 21 to Rum­sey, and took on the re­align­ment of 851 through Delia to the Hand Hills.

“We had to do cost shar­ing and use our own con­struc­tion crew. It was al­ways a trial to get these things done,” he said. With Rawlusyk, the County also made great im­prove­ments to recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties. They built Michichi Dam, the McLaren Dam and ex­panded and re­built Star­land Recre­ational Area.

Like most com­mu­ni­ties, wa­ter was al­ways a con­cern.

“I spent the best 10 years of my life build­ing re­gional wa­ter. We have gone from no wa­ter in places like Delia, to nearly 400 kilo­me­ters of wa­ter pipe­lines right now… that took a while,” he said.

Un­der his lead­er­ship, the County took a lead on So­lar and al­ter­na­tive en­ergy. It out­fit­ted its of­fices with so­lar power, as well as many of its wa­ter pump sta­tions. It also helped lo­cal farm­ers in­stall on-farm so­lar. For its ef­forts, the County was pre­sented with the Mu­nic­i­pal Award of Ex­cel­lence for In­no­va­tion.

He cred­its hav­ing strong coun­cils for the County’s suc­cesses.

Look­ing for­ward be­yond a sum­mer off, Rawlusyk, who has been candid about his bout with prostate can­cer, wants to give back.

He is plan­ning to do a six­month vol­un­teer stint with Cross Can­cer In­sti­tute in Ed­mon­ton, where he was treated. He is look­ing at help­ing with new pa­tient ori­en­ta­tion.

He also knows with his daugh­ter’s wed­ding com­ing up, and im­pend­ing home ren­o­va­tions, he won’t be sit­ting idle.

“I thought I would get the first year lined out,” he chuck­les.

Ross Rawlusyk… Star­land CAO

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