A long career in municipal affairs that began in 1980 for Charles Barton, the CAO, clerk and deputy treasurer of Nipissing Township, has ended with his retirement.
Barton's last day of work at the township office was Feb. 16.
The retirement is actually Barton's second farewell from the municipal office. He took an early retirement in 2001 after his wife passed away from cancer in 1994 at the age of 42.
At the time of her death, Barton's son and daughter were teenagers, and several years later he came to the conclusion that “life's too short” not to enjoy it. But he was coaxed back by the mayor in 2008 after Nipissing carried out a study of its operations and decided it should have a chief administrative officer.
“They wanted me to work full time, but I said no and we settled on three days a week,” says Barton, 71.
Barton studied business administration at Canadore College when it was still a campus of Sudbury's Cambrian College before becoming an independent institution in 1972.
Born and raised in Nipissing Township and after graduating from college, Barton began working at the Bank of Nova Scotia's main branch in North Bay in 1971. He spent nine years as a Scotiabank employee and, during that time, he and his family moved eight times.
“I liked working for the bank, but I didn't like moving all the time. And when the kids started to get into school, they didn't want to keep moving either,” Barton recalls.
When he was growing up, Barton knew the type of work he wanted to do. He liked three careers, namely becoming a bank manager, a township clerk or a church minister.
He ended up in banking, and when the financial sector took him to Sault Ste. Marie, he played the organ at the church the Barton family attended. It was then he got a phone call from the then reeve of Nipissing.
Barton recalls the conversation.
“He said 'The clerk's job in Nipissing is coming up, You better apply,'” Barton recalls. “I said 'OK,' applied and got the job. So I guess with me now finally retiring I won't become a minister.”
LONE OFFICE EMPLOYEE
Barton first started at the township office on May 5, 1980, as the municipality's clerk, treasurer and tax collector.
At the time, he was the only office member, although the township had a roads superintendent who also was in charge of the landfill.
“I looked after the office, cemetery and recreation,” Barton recalls.
Since those early days in 1980, Barton has seen several major changes and he had input in bringing them about.
For example there was no zoning bylaw or official plan, which he helped create.
Also, there was no fire department. Several portable pumps are what the township used to fight fires.
Barton recalls one of the pumps was stationed at the township office, another was in Commanda Township, a third in Nipissing and one pump was in place for the island properties.
The former Ministry of Natural Resources would help Nipissing Township in the event of a forest fire. And if there was a structure fire too large for the community to fight on its own, Callander would send its firefighters.
Although a group of volunteers built the township's first fire department on Wasi Road, Barton says the community wouldn't see a full fire department until the late 1980s.
When Barton agreed to return in 2008, he assumed the roles of chief administrative officer and clerk, and a little later he was named deputy treasurer.
With Barton's latest departure, town council has named Kris Croskery-Hodgins the interim CAO-clerk-treasurer.
Prior to the appointment, Croskery-Hodgins was the treasurer and deputy clerk.
It was during Barton's second life with the township that the office personnel began to expand. He says Croskery-Hodgins was hired as was John-Paul Negrinotti, who looked after issues such as zoning bylaws, minor severances and variances in his role as the municipal planning official.
'LONG SUCCESSION PLAN'
Over the succeeding years, Barton trained both of the new employees calling what he was doing a “long succession plan.
“They're trained, ready to take over and it was time for me to retire,” he says.
Over his two stints at the township hall, Barton worked with 13 town councils, speaking highly of the elected officials.
“I never had a bad council in all those years,” he says.
Barton says he enjoyed going to work every day over the decades, adding “you never knew what was going to happen.”
Nipissing Township has a core, year-round population of 1,700 people, but swells to more than 3,000 residents during tourist season. Barton says he could always expect a call of some sort almost daily.
Barton originally intended to retire last year, but when COVID-19 struck he agreed to stay on a little longer. But after that additional year, Barton says the time to leave is now.
Council, he says, is in the third year of a four-year term and he didn't want to leave during an election year or leave when the new council is elected.
“That was at the back of my mind,” he says.
“But now with me gone, they can hire a new person who can be trained for next year's election.”
Barton says he's leaving the township in excellent financial shape adding “our reserves are good.” He most recently helped bring about a new official plan and last December the zoning bylaw was updated.
Barton personally hopes council sees its way to make Croskery-Hodgins the permanent CAO.
“I hope council sees Kris would be the logical choice if they do advertise for a chief administrative officer,” he says.
Barton lives on a 170-acre property and in the same home where he was born. His daughter lives next door to him in Nipissing and his son about one kilometre away.
He has four grandchildren, one great-grandchild and a female companion in the Burk's Falls area.
With his municipal career over, Barton says he now has more time for recreational activities like snowmobiling on his land, and come this summer he can golf on a nine-hole course he put on his land.
He also recently bought a piano.
“So I have lots to do,” he says.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget