With his family still living in Saskatchewan, the general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba is stepping down and returning home after just seven months in his post.
Citing a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Rob O’Connor confirmed he starts a new job at the beginning of August, which he says is a management position for a new agricultural event.
But he shied away from revealing too many details about the job.
"What I can say is it’s something that will never happen again in my lifetime. It’s a great opportunity for me personally."
He will return to his cattle farm near Vibank, Sask., where his wife and two kids have remained since he took the Brandon position in January.
"It was all about this opportunity," he said, insisting there was no other reason for the abrupt departure. "I wasn’t looking to leave, I wasn’t expecting any offers.
"There’s a great amount of opportunity here in Brandon … especially in the agricultural event business," he said, singing his praises for the province’s desire to keep such events in Brandon and the Keystone Centre’s capacity to host them.
"I wouldn’t have left if it wasn’t for this opportunity."
After 10-year veteran GM Karen Oliver hung up her exhibition hat last year, O’Connor’s arrival to the city was a point of note during this year’s Royal Manitoba Winter Fair and Manitoba Summer Fair.
He was first headhunted for his new opportunity before this year’s summer fair began in early June and he informed the board of directors of his departure on June 24.
Following the summer fair, he indicated he was in the position for the long haul and anticipated retiring from the Provincial Exhibition.
However, he told the Sun it was intentional to keep the news of his departure quiet so as not to draw any negative attention towards the fair.
"I didn’t think the community needed to be concerned about this or have any negative thoughts about this," he said. "For me personally, it may be selfish, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Before coming to Brandon, O’Connor was the show manager of Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina, where he helped grow the event by attracting national and international participation, as well as bringing a number of new sponsors on board.
The general manager leads the team in the Provincial Ex’s four annual events — the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, Manitoba Summer Fair, Manitoba Livestock Expo and President’s Dinner.
The exhibition’s board of directors have started the task of O’Connor’s replacement.
"I think there’s so much more than can be done to bring more tourism to this city, there’s so much potential," he said.
While his new job starts at the beginning of August, he said he will help the Ex as needed until a replacement is found.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 18, 2014