What is the difference between the role of council and the role of staff? As a mayor and councillor of a small municipality, we are faced with that question almost on a daily basis.
The short answer is: council sets policy, and bylaws and staff make sure they are implemented and enforced.
However, in some instances, it is not that simple and it is very difficult for everyone to understand that council does not get involved in the day-to-day operations.
For example, I was asked at a recent council meeting a question regarding a waterline issue in one of our developments that had just happened a few days before.
When I answered that I wasn’t aware of any such problem, I was criticized for not being informed as the mayor. The truth is that this is not something the mayor or a councillor would have to know since we have a public works department that would deal with it.
Should the situation evolve into something that would require a decision on some major tax dollar spending or who would have to pay for it (ie. the Village of Canal Flats or the developer), council would then get involved.
It is also not the role of council to give direction to individual employees. In fact, council only has one employee and that is the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Any directions to staff goes through the CAO. He/she is also the only employee who gets hired by council. Everyone else is hired by the CAO.
When elected to office, we don’t magically become experts on everything. We depend on our staff to have the expertise and do the research to make recommendations that help us make our decisions.
They are also the ones who will feel the brunt of any unpopular decisions we make.
We are very fortunate in Canal Flats to have a group of amazing people working for us. They all know the community well, are very professional, and keep the day-to-day operation of the Village running smoothly.
It is usually the politicians who get put in the limelight for a success in a community, but we need to remember and appreciate the ones who work so hard to make us look good. Thank you so much to staff of the Village of Canal Flats for doing such a great job!
Ute Juras is the mayor of Canal Flats and can be reached at 250-489-9070 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.