Diane Heinrich, Grand Forks CAO

Diane Heinrich, CAO for the City of Grand Forks, pays attention to the details

Diane Heinrich became the CAO for the City of Grand Forks on January 18, 2018

Diane Heinrich became the CAO for the City of Grand Forks on January 18, 2018 — Photo courtesy City of Grand Forks

Diane Heinrich wears two hats at Grand Forks City Hall: she’s been the corporate officer since 2009 and she was appointed the City’s CAO in January 2018.

We talked with Heinrich about her leadership style, and it’s clear that she’s not a micromanager. “I’m good at empowering people to own their projects and responsibilities,” she said. “We have an excellent management team here—young and full of energy and really doing well. They manage their own departments and I’m here to assist them.”

The most challenging part of the job for Heinrich is learning the pieces that are outside her wheelhouse. She needs to know how things work for each department so that, when there are projects on the go, she has some idea of what actually has to administratively happen. She likes to understand how each project works and how it fits with the day-to-day needs of the City.

“When we get a grant for a multi-million-dollar project, I want to understand how the project will be managed and if there are challenges I can help with,” Heinrich said. “One of my natural talents is problem solving. We always have challenges—some new and some ongoing—and I like solving those types of things and helping the management team when they need it. That’s part of my leadership style.”

Housing and homing

With input from the community, the City has made some changes to its Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw to address the issue of affordable housing. Opportunities for building smaller houses and even tiny homes, carriage homes and secondary suites in some areas, are all under consideration. These structures would have to comply with the OCP, and zoning requirements are now in place across most of the city.

“It’s not so much that there’s a real housing shortage for owning homes in Grand Forks,” Heinrich said, “but smaller homes are just more affordable, and we’d love to help provide that opportunity for everyone.”

There are residential building lots available for purchase and development  in Grand Forks, but rental accommodation is in short supply.

On the agenda

Some large projects in Grand Forks are nearing completion. The 22nd Street multi-utility infrastructure project, funded through the City’s capital plan, will be completed this year, as will the grant-funded wastewater treatment plant project and the U-V disinfection project. Funding for the latter two projects was provided through the New Building Canada Fund.

Thanks to a grant through the UBCM, a community flood-risk assessment will be undertaken in Grand Forks in 2018. There’s also a lot of interest for potential development in Grand Forks, and Heinrich hopes to see some action on projects this year as well.

B.C. municipal elections will take place on October 20, 2018. Like many communities, Grand Forks had a disappointing showing at the elections in 2014—approximately 30 per cent of eligible voters turned out to exercise their privilege.

“We’re thinking of doing some outreach in the schools,” Heinrich said. “We’d like to inspire passion in our young people—we want to encourage students to understand the impact of local government on the community’s everyday function and quality of life.

“Our young people have a lot of power, and once they’re excited and talking about this at home, I’m sure we’ll see higher numbers of adult voters at the polls.”

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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