Eganville -- North Algona Wilberforce Township staff are taking on additional responsibilities in preparations for CAO Andrew Sprunt's eventual retirement although a date has yet to be set. "Well I'm not going away really fast!" Mr. Sprunt said.
For the foreseeable future, he will be slowly transitioning out of his current position as the Chief Administrative Officer, which he has held since January 2018. He will continue to work a couple days a week at the office and also remotely as required to address issues, projects and correspondence. Mr. Sprunt has not yet established the date of his retirement. He told the Leader that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, township staff handled it very smoothly, thanks in part to his experience working remotely in Churchill, Manitoba.
"There have been stresses but we reacted very soon and we also came into this with it being a non-event in that I managed the public works in Churchill, Manitoba and every meeting we had to do was remote," he said. If anything, Mr. Sprunt said the challenges of NAW were pale in comparison to some of the challenges of a remote community like Churchill.
"I don't get too many calls about polar bears here," he said with a chuckle.
Mr. Sprunt's time with remote meetings in Manitoba helped him and the team pivot to virtual when the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in person work. "I think we've done really well," he said. "If anything our absenteeism has gone down considerably." The municipal staff had been easing into a succession plan prior to the pandemic, with the goal of making the township resilient, with multiple people equipped to take on each other's responsibilities.
"In the event that one of them is away, they can do the actual job. It's succession but also sustainability," he explained. Michelle Mantifel, who is the current clerk-treasurer, is transitioning into a role as township lead, with mentorship from Mr. Sprunt.
With the succession plan, the responsibility of other positions will also increase including that of Laura Griffith, the deputy clerk and Karen Utronkie, the deputy treasurer. Perry Ashick continues to be the Public Works Coordinator, managing the public works portfolio and providing support to the CAO and clerk-treasurer while Ronnie O’Neill continues in his role as the Public Works Superintendent, supervising day to day public works operations and acting in support of the Public Works Coordinator, CAO and Clerk-Treasurer. A new staff person will be joining the team in the coming months.
As the Leader first reported on October 20th, council voted to create a "special projects coordinator" role based on a report from staff that recommended allocating the budget from Mr. Sprunt’s reduced hours to a new person, to be hired for a three-month contract. After a lengthy debate, council voted to instead create a one-year contract, with the possibility of renewal.
The Special Projects Coordinator will lead the Wilkens Trail and Sno-Drifters club property acquisition projects and also contribute to economic development for the community.
"You can take a project and it could be cultural, it could be sports but in the end it is economic because it's either assisting to develop the residential growth of the municipality or the business growth and tourism of the municipality,” he said. “We're trying to create that synergy between all our projects." The new position of Special Project Coordinator will be advertised shortly and it will be a one-year term with an option to extend.
Christina Vietinghoff, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader