Victoria city manager’s contract extended by five years

Move solidifies city leadership, says Mayor Dean Fortin

After exactly three years on the job, Gail Stephens has been offered an extension to her contract.

“We’re happy that we’ve nailed her down for the next five years,” Mayor Dean Fortin said of the city manager. “We’ve been really happy with what Gail has been able to accomplish.”

Stephens has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women three times by the Women’s Executive Network. She oversees a budget of $200 million and more than 1,000 employees. Her contract, which was due to expire in 2014, now runs to 2017.

Asked why council voted to extend Stephens’ contract now, Fortin said, “We’re heading into some very interesting times; having continuity at the top was very important to council.”

He would not comment on whether Stephens had received competing offers.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon, along with Coun. Ben Isitt, voted against renewing the contract during an in-camera meeting held earlier this month.

“I didn’t have enough information,” she said. “That is in no way a criticism of Gail Stephens and the job she is doing.”

Gudgeon said she was not given access to the contract she was being asked to extend.

Negotiations over labour costs – and potential reductions – should be done before renewing a contract, Gudgeon said.

“We missed an opportunity.”

Stephens earned $231,000 in 2011, including salary and benefits. The terms of her contract remain the same, with no annual pay increases stipulated.

Tomorrow (July 19), council is scheduled to have a closed meeting, led by the human resources department, to discuss senior staff. The discussion is expected to include compensation.

Current city policy ties annual pay increases for senior management – including Stephens – to those negotiated by unionized staff, but council could vote to rescind that policy at any time.

Coun. Lisa Helps supports the contract extension.

“There is already instability in the organization,” she said.

As council talks about ways to cut its budget, staff worry about losing their jobs, Helps added. “We need somebody at the staff level to guide the process. I think it makes sense to send a strong message to say her contract is long term.”

rholmen@vicnews.com