During his time at Brandon City Hall, city clerk Con Arvisais has worked with seven mayors, 57 city councillors and attended 27 years worth of council meetings.
After nearly four decades with the City of Brandon, the dedicated employee has decided to pass the torch. Today marks Arvisais’ last day.
"They always say you’ll know when it’s time to retire," said Arvisais, 65. "I enjoy my job, work with terrific people, both elected and appointed, but it’s basically checking out new horizons."
Arvisais started at the City of Brandon back in 1976, when Elwood Gorrie was in the mayor’s chair. Arvisais held the positions of central registry supervisor and executive secretary to the board of administration before being appointed deputy city clerk in 1987. At that time he was also executive secretary to the police commission. In 1999, he was appointed city clerk, a position he has held ever since.
Arvisais worked with former Brandon mayors G.D. Box, Ken Burgess, Rick Borotsik, Reg Atkinson and Dave Burgess. He said it was neat to see Brandon’s first female mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, get elected in 2010.
"From year to year you work with new councils, a lot of them come forward with very little experience, a lot of passion, want to do the right job and it’s very steep learning curves for newly elected councillors," he said.
Arvisais said the city clerk’s office develops a close working relationship with each councillor.
"These are very dedicated citizens that basically sacrifice a lot of their personal time for their community, so that’s pretty awesome," he said.
In addition to the changes in elected officials, a lot more has changed around Brandon City Hall since 1976. Arvisais recalls having staff members assembling thick agenda packages prior to council meetings.
"That was fairly labour intensive, there would be sometimes two or three staff assembling these agenda packages so that they could be delivered to the councillors Friday afternoon," he said.
Arvisais recalls "reams of papers" all over the place, whereas now it’s all electronic. Councillors have laptops and cell phones and everything is electronically accessible.
Another major change Arvisais has witnessed is how city council meetings have become more streamlined. Years ago, little things like councillors attending a workshop or opening a home-based business had to go through council.
"Council used to deal with a lot of stuff that, over the years, they delegated down through administration," he said.
Working at city hall for nearly 38 years, Arvisais said the staff has become like a family.
"You spend two-thirds of your waking day with people at work," he said. "To be effective, you ... have to rely on other people. To be able to rely on them, you have to maintain a good relationship."
Arvisais said he and his wife Elaine Arvisais plan on doing some travelling, going to the cottage and spending time with their children and four grandchildren.
"I’m still healthy and there’s a pile of stuff that I’d like to do, and I’d like to do them while I’m healthy," he said.
Looking back on his time at city hall, Arvisais said he has felt very privileged, and is appreciative of all the opportunities that came along.
"Being able to work so closely with city council has been a real honour, career wise, a real source or satisfaction for me," he said. "And ... it’s not just me, there’s other staff in our department that work so hard … To me that’s the best department and the best job to have. That’s why it’s tough to let it go, but ... it’s time."
Arvisais has a wealth of knowledge about the city, and is often the go-to person for advice or information.
"Con to me is an amazing individual," city manager Scott Hildebrand said. "He’s not only a coach and a mentor for myself but I think for a lot of his colleagues throughout the organization. He’s put in many years and has such wide and broad experience, that people are always asking him for advice and even his perspective. He’ll be sadly missed within the city."
Hildebrand said the city is currently working on restructuring the city clerk’s office, to determine how best to fill Arvisais’ role. For the time being, deputy city clerk Heather Ewasiuk will be filling in.
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