Changes in Senior Management at City Hall


The appointment/promotions of Sadhu Johnston, Jerry Dobrovolny, Gil Kelley, Kaye Krishna, and Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas in 2016 changed all of the key actors related to planning, development and housing in the City of Vancouver.

Potential Significance

Quality policy requires leadership by quality people with manageable scope of responsibilities. This team is bringing outside experience and views to the City, marking a shift to a more forward looking and collaborative management team. Post Ballem vision solidified with new staff. There is an opportunity to rectify damage to the planning department and trust between neighbourhoods and City Hall.

Of particular interest to the future of planning and development in Vancouver is the hiring of two new general managers to arguably the most important planning positions at the City of Vancouver, following an extensive search and period of vacancy. This is also significant due to the fact that both are external hires from outside the City, region, and country.

Many observers expressed the hope that the change in leadership would be a turning point leading to a planning director who listened to and worked with planners, architects and urban thinkers in the community. For some, the prospect of new leadership occasioned discussion about the current lack of vision and planning in the City’s planning department as well as the top-down approach to planning, and fuelled calls for a city-wide plan.

Some considered Penny Ballem’s dismissal as a response to criticism of City Council’s approach to public engagement, described by some as ‘tone-deaf.’


In July 2015, Brian Jackson, the City’s General Manager of Planning and Development Services, announced his retirement. Jackson left in November after holding the position for 3-1/2 years. His tenure was marked by public opposition to proposed tower developments in the Grandview Woodland plan, adjacent to the waterfront and downtown. In a speech before leaving, Jackson was critical of ‘haters’ in the community and former city planners who had spoken out on planning-related issues.

In September 2015, City Council concluded Penny Ballem’s service as City Manager, a position she held almost seven years.  She has been praised for her adept handling of the financial problems associated with the Olympic Village development and was criticized for being a micro-manager.