February 28th, 2024

Full-time city CAO unlikely until early 2023

By COLLIN GALLANT on September 16, 2022.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

City councillors are now in late stage discussions about how the next top administrator will be hired, the News has learned.

That will likely mean a permanent city manager won’t arrive until early 2023, making it a full year since the last one left.

The issue was discussed at a closed meeting of the council-employee committee meeting on Thursday night.

Because the discussions are preliminary and also involve a human resources matter, the meeting was closed by council members who consider them to fall under freedom of information protections.

Change in city policy or the general process would need to go to open council for approval, but administrators told the News the meeting was continuing work on finding the next city manager.

“It’s to provide advice back to council on the issues … figuring out how do we get to where we need to be,” said acting city manager Glenn Feltham.

“Sometimes you need to take a bit of a step back and make sure we’ve really thought through the nature of the individual who will lead the organization.

“You don’t want to rush an important decision.”

Mayor Linnsie Clark attended the meeting.

“From my part, and council’s part, we’re very happy with the progress that’s been made with Glenn (Feltham) here,” she said. “Even though we haven’t had a permanent city manager, it’s not like we’re stagnating or have stalled out.

“There has actually been a lot of progress in a very short period of time.”

Feltham’s position at the city has included much discussion about organization structure and leadership philosophy.

Council discussions of strategic direction and priorities took several more months than first expected to finalize a formal council statement about goals for the term. Those are key to creating the 2023-2024 city budget, which is now in the late stages before going to council for approval in December.

Considering the likely possibility the person hired to be the CAO will have an existing job, the hiring process and arrangements to change employment might push the process into early 2023.

City manager Bob Nicolay left the position in late January, announcing his wish to expedite a planned retirement later this year at the end of a special one-year contract signed prior to the 2021 city election.

His salary remained on the city payroll until July as accrued vacation and overtime was used up. That overlaps both the hiring of interim manager Merete Heggelund on a three-month term last spring, and the arrival of Feltham in May.

In terms of cost, the most recent statements from the city’s finance department state executive level salaries may be $176,000 more than budgeted this year.

The difference is being offset somewhat however, as the position of managing director in Invest Medicine Hat “will be not filled in 2022.”

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