Skip to content

City of Thunder Bay names its next city manager

John Collin brings 40 years of leadership and management experience to the position, with a 35-year career in the Canadian Armed Forces as Major-General
John Collin will take over as Thunder Bay's city manager on June 17, 2024. (Submitted photo)

THUNDER BAY — The City of Thunder Bay has hired a retired two-star general to fill its looming city manager vacancy.

John Collin, who spent four years in a similar role in Saint John, N.B., and had a brief stint as city manager in Yellowknife, was introduced on May 15.

The 35-year military veteran spoke to media from Western Canada, en route to Thunder Bay, and said he’s coming to Thunder Bay with an open mind

“I think I’ll be able to bring to the table a lot of understanding and different ideas,” said Collin, who arrived in Saint John at a time when the community was facing financial problems and helped turn the economic tide around.

“Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Thunder Bay is in the exact same situation as Saint John. I’m sure it’s not. But if there are things that require significant change, I think I have the experience to help the team, council and staff, navigate those changes.”

Collin said he knows Thunder Bay is facing a number of challenges, including homelessness and crime, but said it’s too early for him to know what the biggest obstacles facing the city are.

That’s going to take a lot of listening and learning, he said, adding it also involves speaking to consultants and people with lived experience.

“There are some obvious issues that every major city is dealing with right now; for example, the various social challenges, be they poverty, addiction or homelessness,” Collin said.

“No city in Canada has enough money to do everything that residents and businesses have in terms of expectations for that city. Therefore, managing resources and setting priorities is equally important.”

Current River Coun. Andrew Foulds — chair of the hiring committee charged with finding a replacement for outgoing city manager Norm Gale, who is stepping down next month after more than eight years in the role — said they were looking for an all-star and he thinks they’ve found one.

Foulds said they had 40 candidates apply, a list that was narrowed first to six applicants and later to the final three.

“It was an extraordinary process,” Foulds said. “We put in a lot of time and a lot of effort, going through resumes, interviewing and then we were presented with three strong candidates. But we were unanimous in our decision. We had three all-stars ... and in my view and the committee’s view, John was the strongest.

“He had great experience, varied experience, strong leadership — different learned experiences.”

Foulds said he saw in Collin a real passion and commitment to Thunder Bay. Someone inspired to do good.

“That weighed heavily on my mind in convincing me that he was the guy.”

Collin had a little less commitment to his previous role in Yellowknife, where he resigned after just two weeks on the job, citing personal reasons he did not want to discuss publicly, as well as the opportunity in Thunder Bay.

“My time in Yellowknife was very short — intentionally so. I could have hung around a little bit longer, but I do believe it was easier to leave before my presence was too disruptive,” he said.

“I could have easily stayed for a year or two, but I would have been in the middle of implementing all sorts of change and that’s incredibly difficult for an organization.”

— TBnewswatch