The Dryden Observer

Your Source for Dryden News

Say it aint so, Joe

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

Here’s an interesting exercise. Grab yourself a copy of the 2012 DMTS Phone Book — that’s the one with the really nice cover — and turn to page 12. There you will find a page detailing what the city’s senior management team looked like in January 2012.

Get yourself a red marker and start drawing ‘Xs’. Of those 13 department heads, just four remain — lost to a mixture of resignations, attrition and ‘what-have-you’.

If that, good people of Dryden, isn’t representative of the kind of upheaval that our municipal government has experienced in the past year, then I don’t know what is.

Now the picture at the top of the page needs an ‘X’ through it as well as City Manager Joe van Koeverden has announced his imminent departure.

This is a significant loss for our city.

Van Koeverden has been the central figure behind the city’s struggle to right its sinking ship, overcoming internal power struggles and even an attempted coup d’etat last January as a faction of councillors tried to oust him from his position via in-camera intrigues — this while the city was still hemorrhaging cash from Dryden Mobility.

Van Koeverden plead his case directly to the people of Dryden in our pages, explaining the depth and scope of the challenges facing us, while facing criticism for making public what some felt should remain hidden. He blew the lid off the whole terrifying thing.

The numbers weren’t lying. We were in big trouble.

Imagine that. Working with the media to inform the public about the challenges facing the city? The notion had been so long abandoned in Dryden’s municipal political scene that we in the media didn’t quite know how to handle this sudden shift in the news culture, or what he was playing at.

It led to a mountain of bad news, of course. A narrative many years and previous councils in the making emerged to explain how we arrived in this hole and how we might find our way out of it.

It has been devastating, confusing, painful and utterly necessary for the people of Dryden to experience. While Drydenites have never been so fearful for the future of their community, they have also never been this well-informed or engaged by their City.

That’s not us patting ourselves on the back. That, you owe to Joe van Koeverden.

What is his angle? I think van Koeverden knows that the difficult decisions that have been made and those still to come require a buy-in at the community level — widespread acceptance and willingness to move forward with measures that affect people’s lives and livelihoods as the municipal government transitions towards sustainability under the present economic realities.

This kind of work takes a terrible toll on even the strongest minds among us who bear its burden. Van Koeverden, who has operated in a state of near permanent crisis since his arrival in July 2011, has given more than most to this community in the short time he has lived and worked here.

He has delivered us to a place where he can make his exit with honour and grace despite the work left to be done. We all owe him a great deal.


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