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HomeBusinessWho’s who in the Vancouver mayor’s office

Who’s who in the Vancouver mayor’s office

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Bob Mackin

In its campaign platform, ABC Vancouver promised that if it won a majority of the seats on city council, that it “will limit partisan activity from Mayoral office staff.” 

Ken Sim won the mayoralty on Oct. 15 in a landslide and all seven of his council candidates were elected. But it could be easier said than done to curb the partisan enthusiasm over the next four years, as nine of Sim’s 10 political staffers listed in the city employees’ directory have backgrounds working in political jobs or as candidates for a civic office.

ABC mayoral candidate Ken Sim (YouTube)

Topping the list is Kareem Allam, the new party’s campaign manager who transitioned into a job as Sim’s chief of staff after the Oct. 15 election victory. 

Allam started 2022 as campaign manager for Kevin Falcon’s successful political comeback to win the BC Liberal leadership. Allam joined Fairview Strategy in October 2019 after two years at Hill and Knowlton Strategies. He had stints earlier in his career with Fortis, Britco and TransCanada, and was the vice-president of corporate development at Monark Group. The Surrey firm spearheaded the Kater driversharing app, among other projects. 

Sim’s senior advisor is David Grewal, who fell 1,668 votes shy of the 10th and final seat in the race for city council in 2018. Grewal’s fellow NPA candidate Sarah Kirby-Yung, now with ABC, made the cut. 

Grewal co-founded natural gas supplier Absolute Energy Inc. in 2003 and is a past-chair of the West End Business Improvement Association.

Director of communications Taylor Verrall had the same role for ABC Vancouver from May to November, after working as communications manager on Falcon’s campaign under Allam. 

He also managed the unsuccessful Saanich South BC Liberal campaign of Rishi Sharma in the 2020 provincial election. Verrall was active in the riding association from 2016 to 2018.

Verrall has a background in campaign data management and graphic design. He is credited with designing the magenta, azure and marigold ABC party logo that symbolizes the desire to be a civic coalition of Liberal, Conservative and NDP supporters. 

Sim’s office has five people with director in the title. 

(Kareem Allam/Twitter)

Melissa Morphy: director of policy. Formerly with Hill and Knowlton, an ex-constituency assistant for former BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and a youth organizer for the BC Liberals prior to the 2017 election. 

Patrick O’Connor: director of legislative affairs. A New Westminster BC Liberal campaign worker who was part of the 2011 Christy Clark campaign. He is a former communications and policy researcher for the NPA. 

Trevor Ford: director of field operations. The ABC campaign director of data analysis and operations and 10-year veteran of Communica Public Affairs. 

Yunxia (Chris) Qiu: director of outreach. A 12th place NPA candidate for school board in 2018. Five years ago, Qiu was the spokesperson for the Marpole Residents Coalition that opposed the 78-suite temporary modular housing project at 59th and Heather. 

Manuel Santos: director of outreach. Santos was director of field operations from May to Vancouver for ABC and spent 2019 to 2022 as a regional organizer for the BC Liberals after six years as an office manager for the BC Liberals.

Research coordinator Conor Doherty graduated to the mayor’s office after two stints as Coun. Rebecca Bligh’s political assistant. Doherty is also a former junior policy analyst with Global Affairs Canada and Infrastructure Canada and a former vice-president with the Alma Mater Society at UBC Vancouver.

The office directory also lists five administrative employees: assistants Cheryll Chingcuangco, Billa Medhurst and Nenita Pio Roda, executive assistant Connie Pavone and manager of mayor and council support Leslie Tuerlings. 

How much is this all costing? 

Neither Allam nor Verrall responded for comment. 

During 2021, then-Mayor Kennedy Stewart spent $824,313.88 of his $1,112,010 office budget on political salaries in his office. Unlike Sim, Stewart had two chiefs of staff: Anita Zaenker ($137,904) and Neil Monckton ($126,366). Communications director was Alvin Singh ($125,567), who ran on Stewart’s Forward Together ticket, which was shut-out in October.

Combined, the trio of Stewart’s senior aides accounted for 47% of the political salaries in 2021. 

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