Vancouver city manager Sadhu Johnston to step down in January 2021

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      The top administrative job at the City of Vancouver will need to be filled.

      City manager Sadhu Johnston informed Mayor Kennedy Stewart that after five years, he is ending his time in the position as of January 2021, according to a City of Vancouver news release issued today (September 15).

      Prior to becoming city manager, Johnston had been the deputy city manager for six years. He was named city manager in March 2016, replacing Penny Ballem, who had been fired by city council in 2015.

      Before joining the City of Vancouver, Johnston had been the chief environmental officer for the City of Chicago.

      Projects that Johnston led included addressing the housing crisis with temporary modular housing and new housing policies (including the launch of the Empty Homes Tax to help fund affordable housing); implementing the Greenest City Action Plan; the Burrard Bridge upgrade and other major capital projects; the creation of the Arbutus Greenway and active transportation initiatives (such as MOBI bike share); and new childcare projects.

      Johnston also led the city in resilience and emergency planning with the Resilient Vancouver strategy, worked on addressing the opioid crisis, and oversaw the last round of collective agreement negotiations in 2015-16.

      In addition, Johnston oversaw the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the restart of city services and facilities and support for businesses and the community. 

      “While we have made progress on many important issues during the past 11 years, there is so much more to be done and I have confidence in the commitment and professionalism of the City staff to meet those challenges,” Johnston stated in a news release, adding that the job has been the most rewarding one of his career.

      Mayor Kennedy Stewart thanked Johnston on behalf of city council for his work.

      "Sadhu has helped the City of Vancouver push forward many innovative and challenging initiatives that have helped Vancouver tackle issues such as housing affordability, homelessness, climate change, and transportation,” Stewart stated.

      Stewart will be leading a process to select a new city manager.

      During his time as city manager, Johnston faced his share of cricitism. Marc and Jodie Emery had blamed Ballem and Johnston for a heavy-handed crackdown by Vancouver police on Cannabis Day in 2015.

      Most recently on July 29, a letter from Black activists stated that Johnston’s effort to address historic and current anti-Black racism failed to accept responsibility for systemic and structural racism and that their recommendations weren’t reflected in the city’s proposed actions.

      Meanwhile in other resignations from top spots with the city, Vancouver’s fire chief and head of the city’s COVID-19 task force, Darrell Reid, resigned from his position in July to relocate to Alberta.

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