Looking for your Council member ? Want to see the Mayor ? They`re busy hiring our next city Manager.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 31, 2011  It`s going to be a little tougher to get through to your Council member during the month of November.  They will be meeting at an off-site location (a local hotel) to interview prospective candidates for the job of City Manager.

A usually reliable source, who sits around the horse table,  says there are some very good candidates – not quite sure how this Council member knew that before the closing date for applications – but the person did.

There is one known candidate from within city hall staff interested in the job.  Current acting city manager and full time General Manager, Community Services, Scott Stewart has indicated his interest and got his resume in before the deadline.  Stewart hails from Hamilton where he honed his management skills;  and if you can manage staff and council members in Hamilton, you can manage anywhere.   Stewart has a very direct approach to tasks.  To paraphrase the man – he will say: `Ya know what has to be done, so just do it.  If you don`t know –ask, and I’ll make sure you know”.  Stewart is not big on holding hands.  He tends to get things done and in the past year we have seen his handiwork in a number of areas – most tellingly The Pier.

Scott Stewart, the only known candidate for the job of City Manager from within city hall, brings a brisk, sometimes brusk approach to his job as General Manager Community Services where he gets things done.

Stewart will never get a job as a diplomat, but he will get the job done and knows how to develop staff.  He can spot the winners and he isn`t shy about placing a bet on someone he believes needs just a little nurturing.  He has a great sense of humour, knows how to have fun and really believes the Maple Leafs can win the Stanley Cup.  That belief could handicap his job application.

There is also a staffer whom many thought was sure to go after the job but he has made it very, very clear that he is not in the running.  The  “no I am not interested in the job”  is Frank McKeown, who currently serves as the Mayor`s right hand man.  McKeown has been with the mayor since the beginning of this term and is responsible for much of the growth the Mayor has shown as he transitioned from a ward councillor (Ward 5) to Mayor.  Goldring is much more of a Mayor today than he was the week he was sworn in.

While many felt Frank McKeown would be a first rate City Manager, they didn’t know the man when they made those comments.  McKeown is a project person and an immensely successful serial start-up entrepreneur.  He works best at situations where there is a clear objective and a goal in sight.  Give Frank McKeown those two things and you`ve got the equivalent of a pit bull on your hands.  The long arduous meetings filled with a lot of silly talk – that ain`t Frank.  So he will not be the next city manager.  He may not be with the Mayor that long either.  Frank`s job is done – and it has been done very well.

There will perhaps as many as a dozen people who apply for the job.  Burlington is a good city to live in; a great place to work and the money is good (above $200,000 a year plus perks). The challenges the city faces are exciting..  There are some problems but the city has all the resources it needs to meet the challenges.

The City Manager is the most important person a Mayor has to work with at City Hall.  It is vital that the Mayor and the City Manager be singing from the same song sheet; that the City Manager understand the vision the Mayor and his Council have and is fully behind all the objectives the Council has set out.   Burlington is about to officially pass its Strategic Plan – which is a useful tool for an incoming City Manager.  That document, the best this city has produced in some time, will be read several times by all of the job applicants and if they are truly aligned with its contents – then they deserve serious consideration.  Stewart was a part of the team that crafted the document.

A couple of reliable sources advise that the first round of interviewing will be wrapped up well before the end of November with round two taking place in December and a decision perhaps as early as mid-December.  There just might be a candidate that is so sterling; one that just jumps out as THE person for this city.  Should that be the case – the city just might direct the recruiting firm they outsourced the hiring to – to make a job offer.

Every member of city council was interviewed by the recruiting firm as well as members of the city`s executive committee to determine just what they each felt Burlington needed in the way of a city Manager.  Those interviews produced a protocol, which is basically the job description for the new city manager.  You can read that document here.

Tim Dobbie, Burlington's third city manager, worked exceptionally well with then Mayor Rob MacIsaac but left the job at about the same time McIsaac found what he thought were greener pastures at MetroLinx. Dobbie now works as a consultant.

Former Mayor Rob MacIsaac had Tim Dobbie as his City Manager – they worked like a tag team of wrestlers but it was always clear that the Mayor was always calling the shots – Dobbie just did his bidding and at times that wasn`t always easy.  Dobbie left the job for health reasons and the city had hired a new city manager, Roman Martiuk, before the 2006 Mayor, Cam Jackson, took office.  Jackson and Martiuk never saw eye to eye.  The Mayor came from a Queen`s Park environment where as a Minister he could do whatever he wanted – all he had to do was clear it with the Premier and fellow cabinet members and then direct deputy ministers to carry out the plans.

Roman Martiuk former Burlington City Manager, was often described as someone who thought he was the smartest man in the room - quite often he was and many people couldn't deal with that.

Martiuk came from a solid municipal background and had great difficulty accommodating a Mayor who didn’t really understand the way municipalities worked.  One Council member referred to Jackson as a Mayor who thought he was a Premier.  Needless to say it didn`t work out for either Jackson or Martiuk, who may have thought life was going to be easier when Goldring defeated Jackson as Mayor.  While Goldring was part of the Council that hired Martiuk and should have known what he had to work with when he became Mayor, it didn`t take Goldring long to realize that a Martiuk-Goldring team wasn`t going to materialize either.

Goldring should have had some sense, even as just a Council member, as to how Martiuk managed things.  The learning curve for the new mayor was steep and it was tough going for him in the first 45 days, but he found his footing and with McKeown at his side he grew into the job.  There were some nasty, tasteless comments about Goldring’s reliance on McKeown, made by people on staff, who should have known better. It wasn`t dependence, it was a wise move by a man who found himself with a job he wasn`t fully prepared for and knew enough to bring in the support he needed.

When Council learned early in its first term that the city had a surplus of more than $9 million that they had not been warned about – Goldring, with the aid of McKeown, saw faint words written on the wall and over time those words became clearer.  During the several staff/council Strategic Plan meetings the differences between Council and the City Manager  became clearer.  At that point Martiuk’s days were numbered.   Martiuk, who is no stranger to city hall politics, decided to find out just where he stood and met with the Mayor to review.  That review meeting ended up with Martiuk deciding to “step aside”  then rather than face a full scale review of his contract with city council.  That allowed council to look for a city manager more attuned to the style of the new team.

 

 

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