Former Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen has joined City of Red Deer as general manager. (Advocate file photo.)

Former Westerner Park CEO joins City of Red Deer

Mike Olesen will join city’s senior management team as general manager

The man who helped shepherd Westerner Park through some of its most difficult years has joined City of Red Deer.

Mike Olesen will start work as general manager on June 19 after four years as Westerner CEO.

“It is difficult to leave Westerner Park as I believe it is a place of strong connection where I have had the unique opportunity to build community here in Red Deer. But I am also excited about the opportunity to work in local government and to have a different kind of impact in the city where I live and am raising my family,” said Olesen in a statement Tuesday.

Olesen took over as Westerner CEO shortly before the city assumed temporary financial oversight of Westerner Park as the cash-strapped non-profit organization dealt with financial challenges and large debt after building a new exhibition hall just as the recession hit.

Less than six months after taking the job, Olesen also had to contend with the devastating impact of the pandemic, which saw all public venues shut down for months, followed by capacity limits and restrictions. Olesen announced last December he would be leaving Westerner Park by the end of this July.

Prior to working with Westerner Park, Olesen was the senior director for administration and workforce for Red Deer’s 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. His past experiences include time in retail operations for Parkland Fuel Corporation, as well as 11 years at Hockey Alberta in positions ranging from senior manager, operations and events to assistant executive director. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from Royal Roads University.

City manager Tara Lodewyk said Olesen will be a valuable addition to the city’s leadership team.

“His drive to build community and the pride for our city aligns with the values of our organization where we put our citizens and businesses at the centre of what we do at the city,” said Lodewyk.

“He will be meeting people and learning the many business lines at the city for the first few months as general manager. By mid-July he will begin his work leading specific departments.”

The city said in an email response to questions that the position is not new. “It was temporarily back-filled internally until such time as we were able to fill the position.”

Olesen “will initially focus on the business of the city as a whole, rather than immediately taking on oversight of a specific function within the organization.”

No other staff changes are happening now but the city is always looking for ways to be more effective and efficient, it says.

“As such, there will be more changes as we continue to take steps over the next one to two years to seize opportunities and strengths, and fill gaps and needs to do the work for this community in the best way possible.”

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