Bradley Williams is the new Interim CEO of Westerner Park after the departure of Ben Antifaiff. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

Bradley Williams takes over as Westerner Park Interim CEO

CFR expected to go on as scheduled with no disruption

Bradley Williams, who was previously on the Westerner Park Board of Directors, has taken a leave of absence from his position on the Board to replace the now departed Ben Antifaiff as Westerner Park CEO.

Williams, who is serving solely on an interim basis, said further details of Antifaiff’s departure cannot be revealed due to confidentiality and privacy.

“The community has tried to draw parallels between what has happened at Westerner Park and the Chamber and the reality is that they are two totally separated and isolated incidents. The board just felt it was the appropriate time to make a move and that was it,” he said.

Williams also wanted the community to know that CFR will be completely unaffected by the transition of leadership.

“We have an excellent team that is looking after the CFR and doing the planning,” Williams said. “I have been Chairing the CFR committee since its inception. We have very talented people from Westerner Park organizing it. We have regular interaction with the folks from CPRA and the Chamber is involved with that group as well.

“I am totally confident we are going to deliver an amazing event for Red Deer and Central Alberta.”

The success of CFR 45 is something Williams has full confidence in and he will also continue to execute the vision of the Board, but will not seek the position of permanent CEO.

“I am happy to hold the reins and keep the train on the tracks in the interim. I am happy to get back to retirement when this little gig is done,” he said.

Williams’ transition into leadership at Westerner Park coincides with the long-term vision that was presented by Westerner Park earlier in 2018. Many of the infrastructure improvements, such as a proposed convention centre, from that vision are long-term ideas that are designed to be flexible to the economy and other market factors.

“The immediate stuff is definitely on track. Today, we start pouring the floor on our new building and that new building is about 70,000 square feet and in there we have 55,000 square feet of open space. I toured the site on Monday. It is going to be a great building and an absolutely huge addition to Westerner Park and what it allows us to do, which is a part of our long-term plan,” he said.

Ensuring CFR is a success in Central Alberta for the length of Westerner Park’s 10-year deal with the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association (CPRA) is something that could potentially aide in the success of Westerner Park’s long term goals.

“If CFR is successful like I believe it will be, It will help us with the funding to do things,” he said. “From a funding perspective, it could speed things up — but it is not about doing things really fast. I would characterize Westerner Park as being cautiously aggressive. We are a not-for-profit so we aren’t here to make money but we sure aren’t here to lose money either.

“We have a decent year going at this point in time and I believe CFR will be a good addition to that. I think CFR will grow as years go on.”

Williams added their is no grandiose plans to fast track anything in their long-term plan.

“We will take the cautious approach. That is a Board decision and our job is to execute their decisions,” he said.

The Westerner Park Board will now begin a process to select a new CEO. Williams is not involved with that process as the interim CEO but he did know some of the criteria for the position.

“The prime criteria is to find someone qualified to do it — that is Number 1,” he said. “But very high on the wish list is to find someone local if possible. It was discussed that we can find a qualified candidate that is local and knows Red Deer, Central Alberta, and the business landscape.”

Williams added that since Westerner Park is a fast-growing enterprise, the demands of an incoming CEO are greater.

“The expectations of the shareholders and Board is that Westerner Park needs to perform and produce,” he said. “We run a lot of agricultural shows, we have a lot of big events — there is a lot of stuff going on here with a lot of moving parts.”

Williams fully believes that the staff at Westerner Park are fully capable to handle the leadership transition.

“Since taking this role on, I have been completely impressed with the people here at Westerner Park,” he said. “Being here and seeing how they handle situations everyday — it is very encouraging for me. Many of them are long term employees and the amount of knowledge they have is amazing.”

Williams also expects users of Westerner Park will not notice any changes in the interim.

“I don’t expect they would see a difference. I am not planning to turn the Westerner ship upside down. We have a good ship with good things going on. With any business, there is always room for improvement and I would like to search out those opportunities.

“To see that they are treated well, respected and handled in an appropriate manner — that is the biggest thing I am going to focus on.”

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