Will George, Manager of Communications, Tourism and Economic Development, is saying farewell to the City of Merritt after more than five years at City Hall. 

In that time, the City of Merritt has grown, both in terms of population and policy, with George having a hand in several of the community’s projects and major changes alongside two different mayor and council groups and fellow staff at City Hall. 

Some of those projects have made a significant impact on Merritt, such as the Voght St. improvement project and flood mitigation, new businesses and industry and housing developments such as the new construction on Walters St., George wasn’t able to pick just one project as his favourite. 

“Just being able to work with the great team, with all the departments on some of the big picture items, such as the business license review to really engage with the business community, engage with our business support organizations, with the airport development plan, creating the communications department, looking at the communications plan that we were able to create with the team here,” said George. 

“I think the change of the role over the years as well, looking after the economic development, tourism and communications department, I think they all have their own projects that I’m proud to be a part of, but I think overall the community engagement piece… and forming relationships with people here in the Nicola Valley.”

George noted that pre-COVID, when he was able to take part in business walks, or drop in and chat with business owners, or bring them together to discuss the direction the City of Merritt was taking as far as business engagement goes, created some of his fondest memories of his role. 

The amount of grant money flowing into the community from several sources and levels of government is also an accomplishment which George feels the entire City Hall team should be proud of. 

“Looking back at the last five and a half years, I feel that I’ve been able to leave the department better than when I found it with some of the new and exciting programs that we’ve been able to accomplish as a team, together,” said George. 

Beginning in June, George will be moving to the Lower Mainland, taking on the role of Project Manager with the City of Coquitlam. Although it will certainly be a change moving from a city with a population of just over 7,000 to one with more than 140,000 people, George is looking forward to the challenge. 

“I’m looking forward to working with the City there, working with their council and their management team, working on some of their strategic plans,” said George. 

“Lots of their strategic items relate directly to the experience that I’ve been able to have here working with the city of Merritt.”  

George is particularly looking forward to working on the Burke Mountain development, and engaging with businesses on Coquitlam’s COVID-19 economic recovery programs. A native of Maple Ridge, George is also looking forward to leaving the cold behind and returning to a milder climate. 

“The winters aren’t as harsh… I think it will be nice,” George said, also joking about having to get his rain jacket out of storage. 

“But, I’ll miss the small-town charm that Merritt has, being able to walk to work, walk to the post office, being able to pop in to all of our lovely retail stores where you know everyone and the owner is serving you at the front counter… being able to have the good relationships with the folks that are growing Merritt’s economy and our community overall.” 

That isn’t to say that George won’t be returning occasionally once COVID travel restrictions are loosened.

“There’s so many connections I’ve made here and coming from the Prince George area before, I’ll be back in this area for visits once COVID restrictions ease up,” said George. 

“I have lots of folks to stay connected with.” 

George’s role at the City will now be divided into several different positions, including Communications Manager, Economic Development Manager, as well as a newly created Economic Recovery Advisor position. 

“I just want to say thank you to the community for really welcoming me in and all of the great projects and relationships we’ve been able to build,” George concluded. 

“It’s been a privilege and I will miss it dearly.”