Brandon names new top bureaucrat after year-long search

The City of Brandon has found its new manager, one year after the man who previously held the title stepped down amid an RCMP investigation into the death of a woman who overdosed at his house.

The city said in a news release on Friday that Ron Bowles is set to start in the new role around April 26. He will have to self-isolate after arriving in Manitoba from British Columbia.

“We are very pleased to bring this process to a conclusion,” Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest stated in the news release. 

“After some earlier delays posed by COVID-19, it is very positive to provide some certainty and stability to our administrative team.”

The search to fill the role began last February, when former top bureaucrat Rod Sage retired after being placed on paid administrative leave following a CBC investigation into the death of Christine Mitchell.

The 30-year-old woman died at the Brandon Regional Health Centre in 2019 after overdosing at Sage’s home, which is situated in a quiet neighbourhood in the southwestern Manitoba city of nearly 50,000.

Mitchell had taken a lethal dose of purple heroin — heroin mixed with fentanyl, carfentanil or other opioids.

Manitoba’s attorney general tapped the RCMP to investigate Mitchell’s death and the Brandon Police Service investigation that followed.

Christine Mitchell, right, lived with former Brandon city manager Rod Sage, left, for nearly five years before she died of a heroin overdose in 2019. (City of Brandon; Christine Mitchell/Facebook)

Sage, who was also a non-voting member of the local police board, stepped away from his position shortly after that. 

Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Const. Paul Manaigre said on Saturday morning Mounties have concluded their investigation and have forwarded their report to the province for review.

Manaigre said he could not provide any details about what the report says.

Sage had worked for the city since 1987 and was promoted to city manager in November 2017.

Bowles, his replacement, is a general manager for the City of Campbell River in B.C., Friday’s news release said. He has worked with the City of Terrace in B.C., several First Nations in the region and in the private sector in environmental engineering.

Bowles was born in Winnipeg and has family connections in Brandon, the release said.

Dean Hammond will continue in his role of acting city manager until Bowles arrives. After that, Hammond will return to his position of general manager of corporate services and city treasurer, the release said.

The search for a new city manager had more than 55 people from across and outside the country apply, with the finalists interviewed by Brandon city council, the release said.