Understanding Town Management
by Skid Crease
I had the privilege recently of sitting down with Mr. Mike Galloway, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Town of Caledon. The interview came about as the result of a simple question by a neighbour: “I mean, what do these people on the Town staff really do?” So I decided to ask them. Here is the first of a series of interviews with the people who really run our Town.
Mr. Mike Galloway, CAO, Town of Caledon
First, you need to know that Mike is not a spotlight kind of person. He quietly manages the day to day operations of the Town while keeping a low profile. Humility is good. Especially when you are the CAO of developing community.
The CAO is the administrative head of the municipality. “The complexity of the position of municipal CAO comes about because the incumbent must lead in three different directions simultaneously: down (dealing with subordinates), out (dealing with residents’ groups, media, and other governments), and up (dealing with the mayor and council). Leading in each of those directions requires a different skill set such that the effective CAO must be able to wear a variety of hats and must be able to switch those hats very quickly.”
That quote comes from David Siegel, professor in the Department of Political Science at Brock University.
Town of Caledon CAO Mike Galloway put his role into a very clear analogy: “The Chief Administrative Officer of a Town is the public version of the Chief Executive Officer of a private corporation.” In other words, the buck stops here. Mike is not the expert in every area of Town operations – he leaves that up to his five talented Department Heads. His job is to coordinate the information they provide and insure that it is always focused towards the Town’s goals. The CAO is the generalist who keeps the specialists on track.
Mike is also the only member of the Town staff who is hired by the Town Council; therefore, like the Mayor and Councillors, he attends every Council meeting and has a seat at the Council table. Other Town staff who are sometimes required to be at a Council meeting have assigned seating in the audience section of the Chambers, providing input when requested.
It is also the job of a CAO to ensure that the Town employees are working productively towards the vision and mission of the Town and that they are being treated in a respectful and equitable manner while doing so. Thus, the CAO is like the parent you always wanted – trustworthy, fair, impartial, empathetic, and upholding high standards. She, or he in this case, keeps the ship sailing in the right direction with all hands on deck in the right positions.
It is the CAO’s job, not the Council’s, to manage Town staff. It is the public’s job to manage the Council through the electoral process.
So far, the good ship Caledon seems to be on a wisely charted course thanks to its Town staff, and their captain.