After six years of managing Rimbey’s finances and handling all sorts of administrative duties, town manager Russ Wardrope has called it a career and began his retirement Friday, Feb. 26.
“My first career was in the military where I was a resource manager and financial director in the air force, and spent 31 years doing that,” Wardrope said in explaining how he entered the field of civic management. “That job is very closely akin to municipal management. Managing budgets, managing people and managing resources was what I’ve done for most of my career.”
Following his planned retirement from the military in 1994, Wardrope immediately enrolled in a number of university courses in municipal administration. He spent time managing air shows throughout the province before taking over the town management duties in Killam, where he spent seven years before relocating to Rimbey in 2004.
“It’s been exciting, it’s been fun and a rewarding part of my career. The sense of accomplishment is great,” Wardrope said. “It’s an active community and things happen here. The growth and development of this community has been blossoming in the last decade, so that has also been very rewarding.”
As for a particular pet project or an accomplishment that he is the most proud of, the new retiree pointed to Rimbey’s western edge.
“Certainly, the sense is that the town has grown and developed into a larger and better community and the backbone of that was the renewal of the hospital, which was essential to the lifeblood of Rimbey in my opinion, and that led to other developments including attracting the two chain hotels into the community,” Wardrope said. “It has changed the environment and what can happen in Rimbey such as small conventions, having space for large hockey tournaments and those kinds of things.”
He said the credit for all the new growth he’s seen over the past six years can be attributed to leadership and a tremendous team effort that included the mayor, council and support staff.
“The most enjoyable part was being a part of that team,” he said.” They’ve been an excellent group of people to work with and they’re well motivated to achievement in their specialties and promoting the community.”
Wardrope said there are several other projects in various stages of development that should come to fruition in the next little while but he was quick to add that Rimbey is already in an envious position.
“Probably the highlight is that the community of Rimbey is so well positioned to move forward. Our infrastructure, with the completion of the sewer lagoon, extended our wastewater management plan for another 25 years with no major investment required,” Wardrope said. “We’re just starting the process of a new water reservoir that will be built this year, which will extend our water services for that same growth period of another 25 years or so. Our equipment is all first-line, our recreational facilities are in really good shape with the renovation work being done at the swimming pool, so Rimbey is in a wonderful position to move forward as a growing community.”
In assessing the many developments that have occurred or are still in the works, Wardrope said it all comes down to rolling up the sleeves and getting the job done.
“Things happen here and it happens because of some really good people who are motivated and get the encouragement from council and the leadership in town to go out there and do things, and it’s been a wonderful experience to see that. The biggest thing that is really evident is offer Rimbey a challenge, and they’ll stand up.”
Wardrope citied the effort last summer during the Wild Pink Yonder tour that saw the community rally together resulting in Rimbey being bestowed with the honour of The Pinkest Town in the West
“All it took was a little bit of leadership and saying ‘We can do this,’ and people got behind it and businesses got behind it and we just did it,” he said. “That seems to happen in all of Rimbey’s events. When you need money to support new beds in the hospital, it happens. If they want to put on a program and support a particular group of activities or people in the community, it happens. The development at Pas-Ka-Poo Park is continually growing and becoming a better attraction for the people and is something the community can be proud of.”
Wardrope plans to do some travelling with his wife Linda, but no matter where their journeys may take them, they have no doubt where home is and where they’ll remain.
“Rimbey is still going to be home. I believe that we’ve earned the time and capacity now to do a lot more travelling and not be committed to being back on a certain date because work starts the next morning, and we’re going to enjoy that part. Having a career in the military, I’ve been from the west coast of Vancouver Island to the east coast of Newfoundland in many places, but there’s still a lot of places I haven’t seen so that’s what we’re going to aim for,” he said.
“It’s been a real slice and an enjoyable thing. We recognize now that Rimbey is going to be home and I’m really comfortable in saying that. We really enjoy the community, the activities and the friendships that we’ve developed here.”