Mayor must lean heavily on staff

As a former deputy mayor in another city who is not a candidate for the job, I wish to present the following observations on the job description presented by the ad hoc committee regarding the next mayor.

As a former deputy mayor in another city who is not a candidate for the  job, I wish to present the following observations on the job description presented by the ad hoc committee regarding the next mayor.

But before I do, I wish to thank Charlie for his public service for 12 of the last 15 years and wish him well on his political retirement.

While their recommendations are strong they are describing the attributes of the chief administrator, not the chief politician.  It is no accident that the mayor only gets a three-year term and is paid a rate at the level of a custodian.  The mayor is paid only for his/her political skill and leadership representing the electorate, part of which includes confidence and communication skills but, first and foremost, their political acumen.

Political acumen is simply what it takes to get elected.  The defeat road is littered with candidates with some or all of the attributes on the ad hoc list, but no clue how to go about being elected. On the other hand, Ralph Klein, a highschool dropout, with strong media savvy became one of Calgary’s most effective mayors.  His credo “figure out what people are thinking and get out in front of the parade and lead it” is a perfect definition.

A major component of political acumen is motivation on so many levels.  After motivating enough voter  support to be elected, one must be able to motivate both council and staff to support one’s vision.  It is difficult to convince the city-wide elected council with, in some cases, more votes than the mayor that they should follow the mayor’s lead.

If one is a good motivator one can work with the majority at all times to implement one’s vision. Since you don’t necessarily have a deep understanding of all aspects of administration you must lean heavily on the staff expertise to guide you. If it is missing, you must develop a strategy to either hire  experts or enlist the public to help via the committee route.

Yes, you have to have the basics of  finances down, but you have to rely on your chief financial officer to get the financial house in order. The mayor’s job is to work with the chief administrative officer and council to fill the position with a manager with “deep understanding” of the job.

It will be a challenge to the next mayor because during the same decade of uncertain political leadership we have gone through the same number of  chief  administrators.  No wonder the staff  and council are seen to be having difficulties with direction  because of inconsistent leadership.  I don’t know of any community that has gone through so much uncertainty with both crucial positions revolving over the same period of time.

In agreeing with the committee regarding the “transitional moment” in our economic history I trust that they will accept that the role of mayor is different than corporate president.  I know that we agree that “We must look for new ways to look forward.”

Most of all, we must end this political and administrative uncertainty if we are, in fact, to succeed as a community.

Sterling Campbell

Campbell River

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