The Town of Outlook’s newest Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Kevin Trew of Carrot River, has been getting himself quite familiar with the area for a few years now and sees much potential in the riverside community.
Trew started his new position just recently, but with an abundance of administration experience under his belt, he can already feel the town is perhaps on a growth curve that could tilt upwards in the coming years.
“I started on the 6th of April, so I’m fresh off the boat here!” said Kevin, on the phone with this reporter. “My wife and I came to Outlook a couple of weekends ago, and we spent quite a bit of time driving around town and driving around the area. I look at Outlook and I’m just excited about being here. There seems to be a lot of business and opportunity. What really jumps out to me and my wife is all the different development here. This just seems to be a place with a lot happening. I think that’s a big testament, especially during this pandemic because people aren’t out nearly as much. It was just very evident that there’s a lot of positive growth and development. Since I’ve been here, I hear all sorts of positive things about the future here. Lots of opportunity, and lots of growth happening, and people are feeling positive about Outlook.”
With his work history, Trew says the positives of his job include getting to feel like an intricate part of the community in which he serves, helping to facilitate things and contribute to the inner workings of the town to hopefully foster economic growth.
“I’ve worked as a town administrator for nine years for the Town of Carrot River, and I’ve worked with First Nations, with eight years as an administrator for First Nations,” he said. “While that isn’t the same as a CAO of a town or village, it’s very similar, so a lot of skills that I learned I feel I can bring to the table as a CAO. I very much approach our taxpayer, our utility payer and a person on the street as a customer, so that’s just something that’s universal across different kinds of government. The biggest thing I’ve found, as a reward, is the knowledge that I’m doing something to help my fellow community member. I’ve been very fortunate to have started my first CAO job in the community I grew up in. I was brought up in a very community-minded family, and sometimes it was community first, sometimes first before family. That’s just in my blood, my brain. I’m so excited to now be calling Outlook my community. My favorite part of my job is always helping the community in the best way that I can.”
The flip side of that coin spotlights the challenges of the administrator job, including making yourself so visible in a public role that it can be impossible at times to keep one’s professional and personal lives separate.
“The biggest challenges that I would suggest, generically speaking as a CAO, and there are two sides to every coin, are being involved in the community and being out there and kind of exposing myself, so to speak,” said Trew. “You’re always opening yourself up to feedback that isn’t always the greatest, and isn’t always well-timed, for lack of a better word. One of the things is that I’m very outgoing when it comes to talking to people, ‘Hey, I’m Kevin Trew, I’m the CAO for Outlook’, and I’ve said it to a few people already. Sometimes, that opens myself up to opportunities when I’m with family and not in ‘work mode’ to have some feedback that isn’t always appropriate. That’s probably my least favorite thing, my family has had to be put second at times. That’s my least favorite part.”
Outlook being very much an agriculture-centered community, Kevin is familiar with that world, having been raised on a farm. He also took a break from the administrative field to work a grain and mixed cattle farm for roughly 15 years. In agriculture and irrigation, Outlook definitely stands out, but Trew says the people working in town, as well as behind the scenes for the Town are doing a great job in trying to make the community stand out on its own.
“It’s obviously very premature to share too much opinion on this, but I’ve done a lot of research on Outlook over the last couple of years,” Kevin said. “My wife had decided that we were going to look for a job for herself and myself in a community that’s closer to Saskatoon. Carrot River’s three hours away from Saskatoon, and my daughters are in university in Saskatoon, so we’d been looking for a situation that was better for us. I’d actually been paying attention to things in Outlook for a couple of years, and it’s always been on my radar. I just see, having started here, a really good and cohesive staff that are very capable. They’ve not only held it together, but very capably and very professionally moved forward and have done a great job for the town of Outlook. I’ve been very impressed by the staff. You read things online and you just don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, and this is only my sixth day, but you can tell that there’s such a positive outlook. Don’t mind the metaphor!”
Trew sees extraordinary potential in the services and amenities that Outlook offers people, and what it may be able to offer in the future seems virtually limitless.
“As a community, I’ve found that there’s just so much potential here,” he said. “I see all sorts of opportunities for growth, economic development, and the recreational opportunities are just phenomenal. Once we get through this pandemic and things open up a little bit better, I’m really excited about all the things offered. I toured the Rec Plex and I was just blown away by all the things that can be done there. Our staff is actually working on MORE things to do there. It’s a recreational complex like no other, and that’s just phenomenal.”
Trew’s friendly, outgoing demeanor and community-driven mind aside, it’s impossible to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room, specifically from a job standpoint. The Town of Outlook has had a growing handful of candidates take up the role of Chief Administrative Officer in just the last few years. All seemed capable of doing the job, but one by one they either had their employment terminated or they had decided to leave the role by their own choosing and for their own undisclosed reasons.
Trew makes for the sixth administrator to take up the role in recent years, this time hired by the new mayor and council that was elected last November. He says all he can do is commit himself to the community and hope that, in return, Outlook will commit itself to him.
“That’s a really good question, and I actually expected it,” he said, when asked if he had staying power. “One of the things I’d have to say is that I’m a commitment person. I stick with things until they’re just not there anymore. I’ve had different jobs, but my commitment level was high to each of them. My wife and I plan to relocate here and to have a home in Outlook. I can’t make any guarantees on what will happen from Council’s perspective or the community’s perspective, but I have a contract for three years, and I have approximately 15 years until I retire. My plan is that I’d love to spend the next 15 years in one community, and I hope it’s Outlook.”
Kevin recognizes that Outlook is closer to Saskatoon than other communities, which plays into what some people are looking for in a new community to call home, but he also sees that it can be something of a double-edged sword to be so close to the city. It will be about finding that balance in the future as the town grows and prospers and reminding people everywhere of what Outlook’s ‘identity’ will be that manages to stand apart from everywhere else. What will be key, Kevin noted, is that business owners and residents know what Outlook is as a community before it starts brandishing itself for significant growth and development.
“I’m hoping to get involved in this in the near future as I’ve been totally involved in being a community champion, such as in Carrot River,” said Trew. “I have a lot of experience with branding, tourism and development where the first thing is identifying champions of the community. It’s perhaps a little too premature for me to make commentary on where we’re going to go with that, but I’ve heard enough from staff and Council that that’s what they’re excited about and how I’m bringing a sense of that here. What I’m looking for and what I think is possible is that we’re going to find community champions who have stories to tell and have businesses to promote as a tourist destination. I just see so much potential with the river here, and I see an opportunity here that is going to set Outlook apart. Nice size population, all sorts of different businesses. Outlook has a lot on the go regarding development, and I’ve been told there’s going to be retention and attraction of new businesses. It’s exciting times here. We’re only an hour from Saskatoon, and I know that can be double-edged and that can be our own undoing at times, but I see that we have an identity, above all. My goal is to encapsulate that, that identity and start selling that identity. But, we do need to know who we are before we sell ourselves.”