Ag event centre manager Chas Lambert has been fired.
Just two and a half weeks after its annual general meeting, the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society (PAECS) fired Lambert on Feb. 13 without notice or reason.
Board president Terry Jones was out of the country so vice-president Sherry Gummow spoke on behalf of PAECS. She did not provide a reason for firing Lambert only to confirm he was let go. “We wish him well in his endeavours and we look forward to upcoming years of operation at the ag event centre.”
“We respect Mr. Lambert and we’re not prepared to say anything of a confidential matter,” she added.
It is believed only six of the nine directors were in the session to fire Lambert; Cec Dykstra, Greg Bowie, Sherry Gummow, George Verheire, Doug Gill and Terry Jones. The decision was unanimous.
Ex-manager Lambert was disappointed as his goal was to ensure the ag event centre had national recognition. “And make it the most successful ag event centre there is in Western Canada.”
He feels better direction from the board could have made his job easier. “I encourage them to get that in place before they hire the next manager.”
Policies need to be in place to allow the manager to have a structure to follow instead of working at the whim of decisions made on the fly. This would clarify how management should operate the building, explained Lambert.
It allows management to answer specific questions related to PAECS policies so “it’s not held up by one person’s decision or nine different people throwing different ideas at you.”
Lambert tried to use experiences that worked for him at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, Man. To solve the issues to move the ag event centre forward.
“It could be used for national shows and that’s where I was headed next,” he said.
Hosting smaller events lets national shows know the ag event centre can handle the big shows.
“That’s what disappoints me; we had some really big goals and we had some pretty big dreams and I think that we really could have put Ponoka on the map,” said Lambert. “I know we were.”
He believes PAECS must decide whether it is going to function as an operating board or in a governing role to do well. “I believe those two are crucial.”
PAECS does anticipate hiring a new manager but Gummow did not say when that would be.
She feels running the ag event centre is just like managing any other business.
“You have some thoughts as to how things are supposed to go…It’s a learning experience and that’s where we’re at,” she explained. “I mean we’ve been there for the last five years and we’re probably going to be there for next ten years because we continue to evolve.”
Despite not having a manager to operate the building, staff are on hand to answer calls and book events for those interested. “You call the centre and you’re going to get a person on the other end of the phone and they’re going to look after you.”
There is no specific role for staff at the ag event centre as Gummow related it to a small business. “Most people multitask.”
Customers will be able to speak with staff members and have a date booked without going through a director.
Questions of equal representation have been discussed since PAECS annual general meeting Jan. 28. During the meeting then-president Doug Gill said the board’s problems would continue unless they were dealt with. Financial statements were not made available to the public as they were still in draft form.
Ponoka County had also pulled financial support of the building after the board did not feel equal representation was something to consider.
Since then the Ponoka Stampede and Exhibition Association met in a closed meeting with the county Feb. 12 however no decision was made. Gummow feels there has been only one perspective to this issue but “at the PAECS table there’s solidarity.”
The other side deals with when the board was first formed, “with the best intent for the community and right now that’s the way we feel,” she offered.
One of the questions being raised is how the board functions; the town and county both feel PAECS should be a governance board and Gummow disagrees. Both municipalities function more as a “policy board if you will, but our mandate is operational. That’s what we intended and that’s what we intend going forward.”
Her goal is to see the building used throughout the week for local groups such as 4-H and during the weekend for larger events.