Hawkesbury will soon have its own CAO thanks to Councillor Michel Thibodeau who presented a motion on the October 30 regular council meeting to hire a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) with engineering or municipal law knowledge. In December 2014, council decided to proceed with restructuring the town’s administration by abolishing a few positions, including the one of CAO and opted for governing with various committees to involve elected officials in the decision-making process of the town’s various departments.

Thibodeau supported his motion of hiring a CAO by saying that “the town will be handling multiple dossiers that will require the cooperation of all committees. Our [elected officials] involvement in those committees is not on a daily basis. The municipality will have to react rapidly to change and effectively manage the town’s administration.”

He then proceeded to clarify the role of council before making his official proposition to hire, as soon as possible, a CAO.

“The role of council is to represent the public, to develop and review policies, to identify needed services, make sure that policies, practices and procedures are in place to implement council decisions and guarantee the transparency of the town’s operations and maintain the financial integrity of the town.”

After Thibodeau presented the motion, Councillor Johanne Portelance asked if it would be better to hire a director for the technical services since most of the projects and activity relates to that department. Mayor Jeanne Charlebois then asked the town’s treasurer, Philippe Timbers, how much of the budget is spent in the technical services department.

“It’s approximately half of the town’s budget,” answered Timbers. Mayor Charlebois then supported Portelance’s suggestion of hiring a director for the technical services only instead of a CAO with a broader role.

Before the registered vote, Councillor Pierre Ouellet chimed in.

“I don’t agree with the proposition from Mr. Thibodeau. There are elements that I understand like the fact that many projects are coming our way, but the role of the CAO is much broader than that. I feel that right now, some elements are missing. Like what do we need from a CAO? Do we need this person to concentrate on the economic aspects, or engineering projects or do we need a CAO like we had before that touches a bit of everything like personnel and the like. For me, the motion is not clear enough. I would be ready to support hiring an individual that would be in charge of those large projects, but a CAO, as proposed right now, I disagree.”

Councillor Yves Paquette wanted to clarify Thibodeau’s motion by stating that the motion doesn’t contain any requirements, or restriction , aside from having knowledge in engineering or municipal law. “If you remember, Mr Lalonde [councillor], presented a motion in the past to hire a CAO. At that time, I resisted the motion and I wanted to give [our governance model] another year. It’s been more than a year now, so I will support Mr Thibodeau [motion] to hire a new CAO. If we want to go into the details of what this position will consist, then we can definitely do that after the vote. I feel like we have a lot on our shoulders and I believe a CAO could relieve us of some of the pressure.”

Mayor Charlebois and councillor Thibodeau then exchanged a few words concerning the nature of the position. Both agreed that the existing job description could be modified to reflect the needs of the town. After the exchange, Councillor
Daniel Lalonde added he maintains his idea that to have good management in an organization like the town, they need to have someone full-time, 40 hours a week, that manages from within.

“I was happily surprised of how well the committees worked, and how much contact we have with not only the administration but also the citizens. It gave the elected officials an opportunity to discuss important matters¬† with the town’s administration and I believe that adding a CAO to those committee meetings will only enrich the discussion and it frees us to do our job as elected officials instead of an administrator’s one. I also think that we ran the town with the committee system for three years and now we are one year away from the municipal election. I believe that we will need a CAO, in case any of us is not reelected, in order to guarantee good transition and keep corporate memory.” said Lalonde.

All councillors, except for Councillor Ouellet, voted for the hiring of a CAO.