Monday, February 26, 2024

Challenges and Rewards Ahead For New CAO

By Stephen Vance, Editor

I’ve often thought that there are many jobs that would be fun and interesting to have, though CAO of a municipality certainly isn’t one of them. In fact, I would rather dig ditches, or clean sewers before taking on the top job in any municipality.

The life of a Chief Administrative Officer within a municipal corporation can’t be much fun most days. As a CAO your boss is not one person, but a collection of elected representatives. And we all know that there are often radically opposed views amongst members of council, so while the CAO takes their direction from council, they know that no matter what, they will not be pleasing all of their bosses.

To make life even more stressful for a CAO, their boss’s boss are several thousand voters, who also often have a mixed bag of opinions on issues, and when the right buttons are pushed, they can become – and rightfully so – quite vocal when they hold not just the councillors they voted for, but also the CAO to account.

Public scrutiny is a reality in the business of municipal administration, and while many like to point out that the remuneration for a modern day CAO isn’t exactly peanuts, the reality is that a similar position in the private sector, with similar responsibilities, can offer a much larger pay cheque.

All of the downside attached to the job of CAO doesn’t mean that residents of the community shouldn’t be ever watchful, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they should sit on their hands when they feel that their best interests aren’t being taken seriously.

It is important for residents to be engaged in their community, and to take action when needed, and a good CAO will not just listen to the concerns of the folks who ultimately pay the bills, but take those concerns to heart.

Meaford’s newly hired CAO, Denyse Morrisey will assume the post on August 13, and she will be walking into a community that could arguably be described as frustrated.

Frustrated because there is a feeling among many that while lip-service is paid to engaging and working with residents, in practice it has at times felt like the opinions of residents are heard and then ignored.

A new CAO can either be a breath of fresh air, or a new face on the same old problem.

I’m hopeful that Morrisey will bring the former. She certainly seems from her brief appearance at the last meeting of council to be wanting to work with council, and with the community, which is a far better approach than marching into her new office with the intent to have council and the community work for her.

It won’t be easy. She is coming into a municipality that has lost three top administrators in the last seven months. In January our Director of Human Resources resigned, in February our CAO said goodbye, and just last week the Director of Community Services resigned in the midst of legal troubles. We also lost the CEO of our library just a few months ago, though that is the only position that had been filled prior to the hiring of Morrisey.

Meaford’s senior staff has done an outstanding job over the last several months considering they were without an HR Director and a CAO, so at the very least Morrisey has a competent staff working for her.

No matter what residents have felt about the past, we must let the leash out a bit when change is made, and so I’m also hopeful that the residents of Meaford will do just that. I’m hopeful that all of us will take a step back, and see how the new CAO approaches her new job before piling on with issues old and new.

Best of luck to our new CAO, as challenging as the job is, there are rewards to be found, and perhaps the greatest reward will be to gain the trust of both council, and those who elect the council.


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