City Hall: the Evolution of the Organization

By Pepper Parr

September 14th, 2022



The general public knew very little about Tim Commisso when he returned to city hall as City Manager after retiring from the same job in Thunder Bay and spending a bit of time in the private sector.

One of the tasks he has as city manager is ensuring that the organizational structure is such that the needs of the city are met with the organization he creates.

That structure is something that evolves. In the past two years the staff compliment has ballooned – the Planning department is close to double what it was when this term of Council was elected.

We had a situation this past week when four Statutory meetings took place on the same day.

The Executive Director Sheila Jones was tasked with putting together the structure that will serve the city for at least a decade.

The size of the organization grew and the relationships between the different parts are set out so that staff understands the reporting structure.

Commisso found that he had to reduce the number of direct reports and created a series of Executive Directors that took much of the interaction with department directors off his desk.

This is what is in place now and what the city manager wants to add to the organizational structure.

Commisso is supported by some very talented people who created the outline and presented the charts that are set out below.

This is the core of the administration that has been endorsed by city council and will be put in place going forward.

He did say that he had know idea how Sheila Jones created the charts and left it at that.

Customer relations is getting much more attention – that doesn’t seem to have made any different to the level of citizen engagement.



With everything being digitized – the Information Technology department had to begin shifting its focus and bringing indifferent levels of expertise; cyber security being one.

Oddly – except for ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns and to a lesser degree Paul Sharman had much to say.

In his opening remarks Commisso put it this way: This is a report about “finalizing are putting in place a further sort of evolution of our organizational design, which Council would have gotten a peek at somewhat back in 2019. When we moved to what essentially is a bit of a hybrid structure.

So, with that, actually, I would like to say that organizational design really serves multiple purposes but it definitely is the foundation for accountability in the organization from Council down to the you know, the employees; I use health and safety as the best example The city and council is ultimately accountable for health and safety under provincial law, but it really transcends back down to every employee. It is important said Commisso “to have the organizational design, replicate and as much as possible aligned with your business processes; that is really the key in some respects.”

Endorsed – there will be major changes in the level of bylaw enforcement staff



Endorsed by Council – expected to be a view of what the administration will look like in a decade

Executive Director Sheila Jones explained that what started in 2019 with evolving the organization continues today with what we call designing and evolving our organization. Because evolution is just that it’s adapting and changing to the environment in which we find ourselves and so this report highlights the changes we believe are necessary in three areas.

“The first area is to evolve our focus on our residents experiences and engagement. And we see that there are synergies in bringing together the areas of corporate experience, corporate communication and engagement and the office of the city clerk as a service group with the title of customer relations and engagement. We can see how residents connecting with the city whether it is just for information or it’s to conduct a transaction to provide their input to participate in an advisory committee or interact with you committee and council.

“Our residents will benefit from an enhanced collaboration and integration of the services provided through these three departments under the leadership of an Executive Director Community Relations and engagement and this is simply fulfilling what was identified back in 2019 when Tim first proposed the organizational structure for an evolving organization.

“The second area is to evolve our Information Technology Service to build out the id to Burlington Digital services. Our world and our work have become more digital. We saw this even more so throughout the pandemic when we were forced apart yet we still had to be connected. And knowing this we understand digital is more than just information technology. Digital transformation involves delivering better outcomes enabled by technology and the use of data to support the core mission of the city. It means to genuinely transform and redesign services and citizen experiences. So this transformation is key for the city to harness the best of technology today and in the future.

“The third area is to evolve our bylaws service by housing it with Building and Bylaws as a department of its own. This proposed change raises the profile of the services needed to offer enhanced community protection through a different service model, be it in Animal Services, bylaw, law, compliance and enforcement and in business licensing. The outcome is to have a proactive measures through services aligned with our city’s customer experience strategy. Evolution is change and it’s imperative to not only survive, but to thrive. And so we are welcoming of committee’s questions and comments about this report before you.

“We’re able to do the change relative to the new Executive Director for Community Relations and Engagement based on the redeployment of an existing complement. There’s would be no budget impact.”

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna asked “when we talked about budget, there’s going to be a presentation so we will just receive and file this one.

What will it show? Improvements? efficiencies in revenue producing in the bylaw when you’re talking about being active and proactive. In terms of the bylaws and licenses that means we’re going to get more people more boots on the ground. Getting more licenses for $500 or whatever. More dogs off leash fines as you know with more boots in the ground. Will that be part of the budget in terms of an increase?

It was explained to the Councillor that there are no budget impact from this report and there won’t be any budget increase.

With respect to the information coming forward, you will be receiving two reports in December one with respect to bylaw enforcement and that will give you an overview about what we anticipate that new department to look like for your consideration in the budget and when we bring forward the budget, we will be bringing forward the business case to support that. That business case would include not only the dollars and the funding required to put those boots on the ground as you refer to them, but it will also be inclusive of those resources that are required in the corporate support services. Because every time we hire an individual, it’s not just the boots on the ground. We do need to support those folks with in some respects the back office. You can anticipate in that business case we’ll be identifying what the outcomes are and what are we anticipating that we should be getting for this service enhancement for which there will likely will have to fund it in some way.

That’s likely a tax increase or a tax part of our tax base. So you will be seeing that information coming forward.

When you look at possible enhancements like this, you’re investing in a in a future model of proactive and that ranges from compliance, licensing, ensuring that all license holders do have the proper licenses in place, looking at antiquated bylaws and make sure they meet today’s regulations, today’s requirements, and today’s community’s needs.

Mayor Meed Ward commented that “It’s a monumental undertaking to review an entire organization and see how we can structure ourselves to deliver and you’ve done that really well. I’m looking forward to seeing how it actually translates into better customer service because that’s what we do this for.”

Executive Director Sheila Jones.

Jones said: “ I think it’s very important that we’re presenting this type of information in a public forum. This is really our greatest asset and largest expenditure in our budget sometimes, which is our human capital. This is truly what let our city run. And I think it was really amazing to see slide two of the PowerPoint presentation which puts the center of what we do and why we do it right there in the middle. Parent, resident customer, neighbor, Senior Community client, renter business owner, the list goes on. So when we see what that wraparound support looks like from the current and future state, we know that we’re anchored and delivering that service to those groups. This was no easy feat. It reminds me a little bit of the spaghetti looking bus routes at the beginning of this term, and now they’re all linear and beautiful. And it reminds me of the mishmash of the organizational chart that we started with resulting in far too many reports to city manager.

Commisso ended the conversation with the comment: “I just want to credit Sheila for finding those charts and I’m not sure where she got them.

With no more comments coming forward they called the vote: It carried.

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2 comments to City Hall: the Evolution of the Organization

  • Apologies our inability to read the overhead screens and at times hear the Mayor saw us confuse the issue where she refused to read the motion they were approving or approved at the Special meeting. This does not impact the issue we are addressing.

  • We absolutely agree with the Mayor on what the focus of this exercise should be. ” I’m looking forward to seeing how it actually translates into better customer service because that’s what we do this for.” Our experience as an attendee in Council Chambers at two public meetings and a delegate at three Standing Committees and a Special Council meeting this week was not at all a good one as compared to our experience from December 2018 on and before the Hybrid model was introduced.

    On several occasions we had to interrupt proceedings to be able to hear what was said by those like the Head of Council and staff. We patiently accepted we could not hear until we absolutely needed to hear what was being said. We had no problem hearing the delegates and councillors not in Chamber, some staff was a difference scenario.

    The ability to follow motions presented was also compromised as it is not possible for either of us to read what is put on the screens for the audience. The refusal of the Chair at the Special Council Meeting to read into the record the substance of what was being voted on in terms of the most important issues, escalated to top priority by Tim Commisso, of this Council’s four year term and the inability to read such on the monitors means to us that we have to wait until the webcast is posted before we can understand what was actually approved.

    Add to this the fact that we were subject to “orders”, one delivered by Clerk Kevin Arjoon personally in the Chambers that two of our delegations had to be reviewed and approved by Chair of the Audit Committee and the Head of Council before we could be granted permission to delegate. Apart from Stephen White we are two of a very small group who try our best to hold this Council accountable for their actions and non-actions that affect the well-being of the residents of our City (working to ensure such being the role of our elected Council). For our efforts we are subjected to:

    1. extra hoops we have to jump through to get to the lectern and

    2. totally ridiculous and false statements put in print by among others a member of the Heritage Advisory Committee seeking to uphold a spotless reputation for the members of Council he personally supports by vigorusly attacking the messengers of non-accountability after informing them not to communicate with him in any form.

    Remarks at Council by the incumbent Mayor leads us to believe she is confident her leadership of this Council will see her re-elected. As far as we could tell with her sound issues, she advised that she was looking forward to seeing further details of an item that is not coming back to Council until the new Council is formed. If that is the case expect her to take the position that her leadership, particularly in the Coyote saga is more than acceptable to the people and we will undoubtedly get more of the same 2022 – 2026. Further, and undoubtedly a “strong mayor” rather than a “strong council” approach to consideration of our well-being, health and safety and tax bills.