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Town CAO leaving NOTL position in January

Marnie Cluckie is leaving her role as Niagara-on-the-Lake’s chief executive officer, effective Jan. 14.

She calls her decision “bittersweet,” and says she is taking a position with another municipality.

A news release from the City of Hamilton confirmed that Cluckie is headed there in the new year as city manager. She has been appointed by Mayor Andrea Horwath under Ontario’s “strong mayor” powers.

Cluckie joined the town of NOTL in December 2020, just as news of the pandemic was breaking, and steered town staff in its response and recovery to ensure residents continued to receive critical services, while also taking steps to improve communication and service delivery, a news release from the town said.

She was thanked “for her strategic leadership,” and wished well in the future.

In an announcement to NOTL town staff Monday, Cluckie said working with them “has been an incredible journey, filled with shared accomplishments, problems solved and challenges overcome,” and added how grateful she was for their “unwavering dedication, professionalism,” as well as their inspirational passion for serving their community and hard work.

Cluckie was on holidays Monday to Wednesday this week and not available for comment.

In an interview with The Local on Tuesday, Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa said it’s been a pleasure working with Cluckie.

“She’s demonstrated a very impressive, professional record,” he said, adding that her guidance with the town’s strategic plan has been vital.

“It’s a really essential piece she’s helped us on,” said Zalepa.

He said the local government will be presented options about appointing an interim CAO, but “at the end of the day, it’s council’s decision” to do so.

This process will begin at the Dec. 12 council meeting.

It’s his stance that filling the head administrator position temporarily, possibly until somewhere around mid-2024, “is probably the most credible option,” said Zalepa.

He also said there likely will be a “couple options to consider” related to filling Cluckie’s position with someone internally, before seeking a full-time replacement.

Cluckie is not the only staffer to depart from the town recently. Last month, it was announced that senior heritage planner Denise Horne was leaving, but where she was headed was not disclosed when Cluckie made the announcement about her colleague during a council meeting.

Horne’s last day with the town was Nov. 17.

In the City of Hamilton’s news release, it says that prior to Cluckie’s role in Niagara-on-the-Lake, she was a director in the strategic transformation group and director of asset management for Halton Region, as well as chief building officer for the Halton Community Housing Corporation.

Cluckie also worked for Niagara Region as the director of construction, energy and facilities management.

The process that led to Cluckie’s hiring in NOTL in late 2020 began when former CAO Holly Dowd retired in August 2019. Dowd was CAO for about three years but worked for the municipality for nearly 40 years.

The town’s former director of operations Sheldon Randall filled in on an interim basis until Cluckie’s first day.

Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara-on-the-Lake Local