By Stephen Vance, Editor
The warm, summer-like weather has finally arrived, students have heard the final bell of the year, June is soon to be a memory, and July is on the horizon, and that can only mean one thing…we are four months from the 2014 municipal election.
In recent weeks I’ve been putting together questions to include in a package to be sent to candidates now that we actually have some candidates.
As I sifted through articles, meeting agendas, and staff reports from this term of council, one thing that our current council has done extremely well became glaringly obvious.
For all its faults, real, perceived, or otherwise, one thing this current council has quietly done very well, is that they have assembled a top notch, very capable senior staff team.
Sure, we can debate whether the size of Meaford’s municipal staff is too large or too small. We can quibble over a mistake made by an individual member of the municipal management team. However, when sifting through reports to council over the last four years, I was struck by how the senior management of this municipality has evolved from a transient and at times seemingly disinterested collection of characters to a streamlined, engaged team of staff members.
Staff reports have become far more comprehensive, responses to requests for comment or for information from Meaford’s senior staff has become faster and more efficient than ever before. Even when looking at photos from public budget meetings over the years, our senior municipal staff has evolved into a dedicated, interested team.
Now, I know that any time I even lightly compliment municipal staff, I am due for an in-box full of angry email from readers who are convinced that the size of Meaford’s staff is too large, or I will hear from people about specific examples of the horrors of dealing with Meaford staffers. And there’s no doubt that some folks have had a frustrating experience with a member of Meaford’s staff, but the same could be said for any municipal staff in any community.
So why do I mention it at all?
Like many, there’s a management position or two in this municipality for which I personally question the need, and I too have had a battle or two with a senior municipal staffer in past years. In the past two years however, the senior management team in Meaford has impressed me in many ways with the improvement in professionalism, reports and meeting minutes have much more information included than in the past, and with perhaps one or two exceptions the senior staff currently on the municipal roster seem to be more interested and engaged than what I have seen over the last six years.
Our current collection of councillors have had an interesting term. As with any council, there have been ups and downs. For this council though, the “downs” have at times been stunning, and the “ups” have often become lost in the aftershock of the downs, but as council has quietly assembled the current team of senior managers, our council has become far more stable and professional themselves.
We are still a couple months from having a full slate of candidates for the October 27 municipal election, and there is much that a candidate can learn from our current council about what not to do, however, candidates should also learn from one thing this council did very well.
This council has overseen the building of a management team that is dedicated, capable, and genuinely interested. And they’ve mostly achieved that by staying the heck out of things and letting their CAO be a CAO.
That’s a huge improvement from when I started covering Meaford council five years ago, and it is an improvement for which this council should be applauded.