Veteran city employee calls it a day
Bruce Randall to retire after three decades in economic development
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 06:00 am
Bruce Randall will soon have time to paint his fence.
Randall is St. Albert’s manager of economic development and in May he will retire, ending a 31-year career in the same department.
Looking out his window at 29 Sir Winston Churchill Ave., Randall can still see the old town hall site that housed his first office.
Back then, economic development was part of the city’s planning division. Randall said he worked out of a converted closet, and the job was a one-man show.
“I remember when I started there were no personal computers,” he said.
“When you wanted to send out a letter, you would handwrite a note, give it to the administrative person to complete and it would be carbon copied.”
It’s not just the technology that changed.
In the 1980s, the city had no commercial sites north of Bellerose Drive. Anthony Henday Drive and Ray Gibbon Drive were talked about but not developed. And the library was in portable trailers beside the town hall.
Campbell Park North and Servus Credit Union Place were empty spaces in a farmer’s field.
Offices for city staff and administration were already bursting at the seams. For more than a year, they were housed in a facility that is now the Sturgeon Valley Athletic Club. In 1983, they moved to the newly constructed St. Albert Place.
The department stayed there for 15 years until it had to move again, this time into the tourism centre at St. Albert Trail. Now the staff have their own building at 29 Sir Winston Churchill Ave.
“The community, it’s continued to grow over all those years and I remember with the National Energy Program, the whole economy changed in Alberta,” Randall said.
“There were a lot of communities that had negative growth and we continued to have small growth for a few years, but we continued to grow.”
In the 1970s, he said St. Albert grew from about 20,000 to 30,000 people. But in the last 30 years, the city’s population went up to 60,000 – and counting.
And with a growing community came more jobs.
Businesses such as the Bank of Nova Scotia and McDonald’s expanded to new locations on the south and north sides of town. The Enjoy Centre opened in South Riel, and the construction of the Anthony Henday allowed faster access to surrounding communities.
Randall said about 30 per cent of residents lived and worked in the community when he started in his job. Now they represent about 40 per cent.
“I think my success was not so much personal but more team or community successes,” he said.
“I can’t take credit for business success. We provide the support but I think we have a lot of successful businesses in the city and a lot of them are very well run businesses.”
For as long as economic development existed in St. Albert, he said it was about diversifying the tax base, bringing in more workers and expanding the business community.
He said there were a few years when growth was constrained. The city lacked available lands to be serviced. He now hopes the newly-designated employment lands will get things back up to speed.
Randall was working at Canada Trust when he applied to work for the city, thinking he would give it five years. But five turned into 10, and then 30 rolled around.
He said the job became more demanding over time. The business community has grown, people expect responses within minutes now and the services offered by his department are a lot more diversified.
He considered retiring before but the timing was never right.
Now, at 57, he said new projects would take another couple of years before they were completed. He wants to focus on slowing down, to travel, spend time with his spouse … and paint the garden fence.
“St. Albert is a great place to live and work. I enjoyed working for the city and working for the community, “ he said.
“I always felt appreciated and that’s a key part of any job, that sense of belonging.”