After a turbulent period, the Town of Maple Creek is again looking for a chief administrative officer.
Town Council has decided not to renew Gary Schlageter’s contract as CAO, 15 months after he officially started the job.
The CAO’s contract comes up for renewal every year.
Michelle McKenzie, the Mayor, said Schlageter was not seen as “quite the right fit” for the job.
She described Schlageter as a “brilliant” and “exceptional” young man, who had the potential to be an outstanding administrator. However, Council did not believe that he possessed enough experience at this stage in his career to help fulfill its vision for Maple Creek.
“We feel we are moving forward,” McKenzie said. “We want someone with at least five years’ municipal experience.”
As administrative head of the municipality, the CAO is responsible for the day-to-day operations, which include managing staff, getting materials ready for Council meetings, preparing budgets, organizing office resources, and establishing a succession plan. The CAO reports to Council, providing leadership and direction, not only to Council members, but to employees of the Town.
When a decision is made, the CAO is expected to ensure that Council’s wishes are implemented.
The Town has now advertised the CAO job on its Facebook page.
The application deadline is 4pm on Wednesday, December 8.
The ad says that preference will be given to an applicant with five years or more relevant municipal experience.
As the search for Schlageter’s replacement continues, Kerrie Chabot, the chief executive officer, will be acting CAO.
At the last two Council meetings, Schlageter has been absent, reportedly on leave. Chabot has stood in for him.
Schlageter officially started as CAO on September 1, 2020. The position had been vacant for several months since Diane Moss left the job in the spring.
Between 15 and 20 people had applied for the job; that number was reportedly whittled down to four. Schlageter was seen as an outstanding candidate, known for doing everything by the book.
A Maple Creek resident, Schlageter hails originally from Ponteix, Saskatchewan, attending Ponteix High School before studying at the University of Regina. He went on to become administrator of the Rural Municipality of Reno.
He and his wife, Kimberlee, who has been a teacher at Sidney Street School, have three children. They moved from Leoville, Saskatchewan, and have lived in Maple Creek for about eight years.
The Town of Maple Creek has experienced a challenging time over the last 18 months. Relationships with sectors of the business community became strained, first over a proposed business licensing bylaw – the issue predated Schlageter becoming CAO – and then over tax increases that came to light in spring this year.
Some businesses were hit by increases of up to 40 to 65 per cent. Among those affected was Richardson Pioneer elevator.
Although the uniform mill rate was kept at 13, the mill rate factors were changed.
Residential went up from 0.607 to 0.609, while multi-residential (manors, duplexes, apartment blocks etc.) increased from 2.13 to 2.3. The other factors were: commercial, 3 (from 2.13); and agriculture, 2.3 (from 2.13).
Meanwhile, the base tax for all property classes remained at $1,050.
Last month, Council released a 2021 commercial tax rebate policy; eligible commercially assessed properties will receive rebates on their 2021 taxes, which could run into many thousands of dollars.
In early October there was more controversy when municipal employees faced the possibility of being locked out of their workplace as contract talks between the Town and union leaders stalled. The issue was resolved without a lockout.
Another issue that came to the fore this month related to acts of volunteerism on Town property. Speaking at a Town Council meeting, former councillor Ellaine Hawrylak said she had been told that community-minded activities like pulling dead flowers out of a pot or picking garbage off the sidewalks were not allowed on Town property without permission.
Hawrylak said she found the restriction offensive.
Schlageter’s tenure as CAO also saw an election in November 2020, which resulted in four new councillors.
Speaking last Thursday, McKenzie said the inexperience of the new Council meant there was an even greater need for an experienced CAO.
The CAO’s job, she said, was extremely challenging, and involved dealing with many moving parts. Not only did the administrator have a responsibility of Mayor and Council, but also to five department managers.
“It is not an 8am-4pm, or 9am-4pm job,” she said. “There is a lot to it.”
McKenzie said the aim was to have a new CAO in place by January 1, 2022.
Over the last eight years, there has been a high turnover of CAOs at the Town of Maple Creek.
Prior to Moss’s tenure, Don McLeod did the job between 2016 and 2018. Before that, Michele A. Schmidt was CAO, starting in March, 2013.
Mark Caswell was the administrator between 2004 and 2013.