“For more information or comments contact city manager Ted Gillespie at 780-361-4400,” was the statement added to each edition of city council meeting highlights that I wrote. Come September 4 readers will be directed to assistant city manager Therese Myndio who will become acting city manager .
City manager Ted Gillespie indicated on July 14 that he intended to retire from the position effective September 4. In a letter to staff Gillespie admitted that the decision was not an easy one to make and expressed pride at a number of activities undertaken during his watch, including the planning and completion of the Manluk Centre – Wetaskiwin Regional Aquatics & Fitness, Phase I and II of the Main Street Project, and the adoption of a number of foundational planning documents including the Recreation Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan, and Utilities Master Plan.
The job of city manager is not easy. It was best described by Russel Farmer, a consultant hired by the city and County of Wetaskiwin to clearly inform municipal candidates what is “standard conduct and practices” and how they are expected to conduct themselves when elected to council.
“It’s much like an hour glass” explained Farmer who was adamant that for a municipality to be effective, under no circumstances will elected officials attempt to directly manage the roles and responsibilities of city staff. City council only has one employee, the CAO. “Council is the top of the hourglass and administration and staff are at the bottom of the hourglass. In between at the narrow part is the CAO (Gillespie in the City of Wetaskiwin) who is responsible for ensuring the policies, vision and strategic plan created by council are carried out by administration. I will go so far as to say council (aldermen) doesn’t engage with staff,” stated Farmer. So what that means in a nutshell is councilors are not involved in day-to-day operational decisions. Council sets direction and budget. The CAO manages staff and budgets to ensure the effective management of the city will provide programs and services that meet the needs of the community.
Roles of Mayor – “The mayor, in addition to performing duties as an alderman must preside when attending a council meeting. The mayor is also generally the main spokesperson for the municipality. The mayor is also responsible for seeking consensus among members of council, advises council, liaises with other levels of government, and provides advice with regard to policy development.
“Under the Municipal Government Act, councilors have the following duties: 1) To consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole and, to bring to council’s attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the municipality; 2) To participate generally in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the municipality; 3) To participate in council meetings and council committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which they are appointed by the council; 4) To obtain information about the operation or administration of the municipality from the chief administrative officer; 5) To keep in confidence matters discussed in private at a council committee meeting until discussed at a meeting held in public and 6) To perform any other duty or function imposed on councilors by this or any other enactment or by the council.”
The pressures of being at the centre of the hourglass can be pretty overwhelming and lonely. Gillespie was responsible for making many difficult decisions: presenting budgets, suggesting tax increases, managing staff, informing and advising councilors and the list goes on. But he sums his term up by passing credit for the achievements by stating, “I am very proud of the accomplishments that we have collectively achieved over the past five and a half years. While I would like to believe that I have a small part in them, most of the credit goes to our staff. I want to thank each and every one of you for the support that you have shown me over the past five years; Wetaskiwin citizens are fortunate to have such a dedicated team working for the betterment of their community.”
Gillespie will remain the city manager until September 4. At that time assistant city manager Therese Myndio will become acting city manager until a replacement is found. For more information please contact Therese Myndio, assistant city manager by phone at 780-361-4414 or email Therese.Myndio@wetaskiwin.ca.