The structure of local government is like an hourglass with the voters at the top, the council next and the mayor/chief executive officer just above the narrow portion of the hourglass. The chief administrative officer (CAO) is at the top of the bottom portion of the hourglass with the remainder of section heads, supervisors, managers and staff fanning out below that.
This is the accepted model used when newly elected officials take their initial training.
The premise here is that governance discussions and policy creation happen at the council table as a group. The mayor is then charged with the task of insuring the directions of council, new policies and the like are carried out by the CAO.
This is to avoid miscommunication. If councillors convey their individual thoughts or instructions to the CAO those instructions are just that, their own thoughts or instructions. Not those of council. In some cases this happens because the councillor has a pet project that is not endorsed by council. They want to push that project and to heck with what it costs in time and frustration.
An even worse case is when a councillor goes around the CAO and tries to direct staff. The CAO’s position is undermined, the council is not properly represented and the mayor might as well give up and go out to cut the grass and dig trenches.
I am not saying all these things happen here in Barriere. I am bringing this all up once again because for awhile I thought my concept of things was flawed. I wanted to be sure so I attended a mayor’s forum for a few days this last week.
I admit I was a bit leery of attending. In the end I was pleasantly surprised.
The attendees were a good mix of long time mayors and regional area chairpersons and people newly elected to these positions as well. Everyone was quick to share ideas, frustrations, problems, issues and resolutions to those issues as well. The group represented every size of District, town and city in the province.
The issues and stories were all basically the same no matter the location or the size of the community. The hope is that by sharing experiences and knowledge each group is not trying to reinvent the wheel. The potential for time and expense savings is very real if the group agrees to provide a continuing support structure for everyone’s benefit.
No matter how desperate things look a positive outlook and a good support network will eventually prevail every time.
On positive local news last Friday our CAO Ms. Hannigan and I went over a plan to bridge the gap created by the closure of the septage pits. Ms. Hannigan had spoken to the staff at Sun Peaks and was given the name of a company that produces one of the components we require.
A request for information/cost quote was sent over the weekend. Company representatives were in Kelowna at the time for a conference. Ms Hannigan subsequently arranged a fact finding, information meeting here in Barriere on Tuesday.
Normally these events would take weeks. This is proof positive that having a network of people to garner information from works well. Well, that and staff and committee members that are willing to arrange their schedules to attend on short notice.
In addition to this headway around the sewer/septage issues the group going to Cynthia to tour the Solar Aquatics plant located there is due to go this weekend. I am told Mr. Borrill will be able to attend with pertinent questions which go beyond the scope of “does it smell?” Okay, I admit that was my first question. I am not attending.
Council is attending the Southern Interior Local Government Association convention for the next few days. A good number of resolutions that will benefit all of us here in the region will be presented, some excellent speakers on various topics and a chance to network and gain more insights into how to get things right the first time. Or so I am told.
Spring runoff is filling our local waterways. Please watch your pets and small children when near the rivers and creeks.