Priorities have changed for many people who experienced the pandemic, and the corporations of North Simcoe municipalities are no exception.
Recent staffing changes throughout Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay Township and Tiny Township have caused some juggling to occur within their services provided to residents, even as the municipalities struggle to find the balance between functioning for their area and abiding by provincial and health regulations.
Within Midland, Michael Jermey left the position of Chief Financial Officer to head west where family is located, with former Tay Chief Administrative Officer Lindsay Barron readying to officially fill the role after departing from the neighbouring township; Angela Fay was recently appointed into the CAO role for Tay.
Following two-and-a-half years of readjusting to COVID-19, Midland CAO David Denault stated that “people are looking for a work-life balance," causing many to pause and reflect on what’s important to them.
“With the pandemic, I think you’ve got more people interested in working in smaller areas,” said Denault. “That’s one of the things that we’re trying to make sure people understand is the beauty of the attraction – the interesting projects we have in Midland – to attract people to come to this area and consider working in a smaller community which some of them may not have considered before.”
Retirement is an issue as well, as it was announced recently that joint director of emergency services/fire chief Paul Ryan for Midland and Penetanguishene would be hanging up his fire hat at the end of the year.
In the years prior to becoming Midland CAO, Denault worked with such global organizations as IBM, AT&T, and the government of Ontario. He mentioned that turnover in smaller organizations like the local municipalities can be disruptive, but the business must continue to run.
Said Denault, “We’re going through – a lot of people call it ‘the silver tsunami’ – where there’s just a tremendous number of retirements happening over the next little while, with people moving out of the public service and not enough people coming in.”
He added that it was very rare, whether in the private or public sector, to see a person spend their entire career at one place and the four North Simcoe municipalities were no exception.
Tay Mayor Ted Walker worked over 30 years as the CAO for various municipalities, and noted that staff turnover is cyclical in nature; there are times when the age of the workforce and eligibility of employee retirement happens to coincide with one another, as has been the case with Tay over the past year.
“There is also the situation where an employee will leave the municipality for a position with another municipality which may represent a more senior position for them, or be attractive to them for personal reasons,” Walker shared.
“We have lost some employees to neighbouring municipalities, but have also attracted employees from neighbouring municipalities to join our team at Tay. Interestingly, the numbers in this regard always seem to balance out. Again all of the foregoing is tempered with a good succession plan.”
In an earlier conversation with Midland Mayor Stewart Strathearn, it was approximated that turnover at Simcoe County council – consisting of mayors and deputy mayors from regional municipalities – could be between 50 to 70 per cent through the decision not to run in their municipal elections in October.
“I think people in the community need to participate more than they have in the past,” cautioned Strathearn. “There’s a lot of pressures on the community they’re living in, and the individuals who end up carrying the frame in the end are, in fact, those individuals.”
The pandemic brought a change in workplace structure with remote staffing taking the spotlight, allowing virtual committees and council meetings to be kept away from the office and safely at home.
Walker stated that municipal employment was “a secure, stable career” which provided incentive through comparable remuneration to that of the private sector, a comprehensive benefit program, and eligibility to the OMERS pension plan for retirement planning. Denault acknowledged that providing affordable housing and a flexible municipal environment was important in combating rising gas prices as an attractor for potential staff.
Both Walker and Denault praised the excellence of their respective staff as various vacancies shifted employee workloads to accommodate changes.
“And nothing – nothing – helps people more directly than at the municipal level,” Denault expressed. “I’ve been at the provincial level which was very interesting and very rewarding, but at the municipal level – you are dealing right with those taxpayers, those businesses on a day-to-day basis.”
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca