Brent Leigh is facing south. It’s morning, one meeting already behind him, and, seated on the Adventure Centre’s curving balcony, his shirt collar open and the sun glinting off a gold chain hung round his neck, he sips at a dose of caffeine. About 40 kilometres due south, shielded by Coast Mountain peaks and mounds, is West Vancouver, where CAO Grant McRadu is busy with the affairs of local government, a mess of traffic cones and heavy machinery peppering the highway between him and his new hire.
“He’s a purposeful manager,” says Leigh. “I know (McRadu) has good leadership drive, and I’m looking forward to working with all of them.”
Since 2004, Leigh has been working as deputy administrator with the District of Squamish, his second stint in the municipality’s employ. To some, the Adventure Centre is a beacon of controversy, an inefficient symbol of the new, and over budget to boot. To others, the Centre is an ideal gateway to a new town, one that is shifting from a natural resources economy to one more focused on tourism. Either way, Leigh is considered one of the key players in the Centre’s creation, just as he’s credited for helping attract Quest University. Further still, Leigh has been the managing director of the Squamish Sustainability Corporation (SSC), the economic development agency nestled in the Adventure Centre’s back halls.
In 2006, Leigh became the district’s liaison with the Squamish Oceanfront Development Corporation. The board nearly partnered with a private developer, a manoeuvre that squeaked through a tight council vote but bottomed out with the company citing a general trend of disapproval in the community at large. The whole process was launched anew this summer, with council leading the charge.
Whether steeped in success or blemished with failure, those days are fading rapidly to his personal past. Leigh tendered his resignation to council on Sept. 16, and he starts his new gig at the end of the month.
“I grew up in West Van,” he says, “so I understand it. I think where West Vancouver is trying to position itself is to get the right people on the bus and see where it’s going to go.”
Leigh has left the district’s employ before. In 1999, he took up a position with the district’s economic development arm. A new vision for the downtown was taking shape in certain community corners, and the near future promised the pitched politics that saw Ian Sutherland and the New Directions slate come to power — a sweep that let them transform much of the district’s planning strategy. In 2000, just a few years before that sweep, when Corinne Lonsdale was still mayor, Leigh turned his attention to Quest University in the hopes of securing a crucial component of the knowledge-based industries strategy favoured by the SSC. He left for Whistler in August.