City manager explains what he has been up to in his annual report to Council. He ticked off a lot of boxes.

By Pepper Parr

February 28th, 2022



City Council hires one person – the City Manager.

They direct the City Manager to hire people – just not who.

The City Manager sets the agenda for the administrative side of the corporation and in turn hires people for specific jobs.

Every City Manager brings a style and an approach to the job.  Tim Commisso had worked for Burlington back in the late 1900’s and left Burlington to return to his home town, Thunder Bay where he was City Manager for seven years – 2008-2015.

Delegates well – and has built a stronger leadership team – that job isn’t done yet.

One of the first things Marianne Meed Ward did once she had the Chain of Office around her neck was to fire the then City Manager James Ridge and bring Tim Commisso in to serve as Interim City Manager and eventually made it a full time job.

For Commisso it must have been nice to return to a city he worked in for 20 years serving as General Manager positions in Community Services and Development and Infrastructure, Director of Parks and Recreation and Deputy City Treasurer.

There isn’t a lot of detail on just how Meed Ward decided that Tim was to be her City Manager other than that she invited him for coffee.

Commisso had no idea what he had let himself in for.  It soon became evident that there were very serious Human Resources problems and that there were a number of senior positions that needed better qualified people.

The current Director of Human Resources delivered Commisso a whopper of a report in which she set out how deep and how serious the problems are in HR.

A big list of promises.

Two years later and Commisso reports that the HR issues are still his # 1 task.

A number of people have been brought in from other municipalities to head up departments: Planning got a re-org with Mark Simeoni being brought in from Oakville to get head up what is called Community Planning.

In the several news reports that will follow we want to focus on the problems that Commisso sets as serious:  HR is not his only concern.

The length of the contract Commisso signed was never revealed; they are usually for terms that run between five to sometimes seven years.

We will see a new Council in November – they aren’t all going to be re-elected.  Will Commisso stay on?  Is he happy?  How tired is he?  The pandemic has taken a lot out of him.

Human Resources – has Commisso got a grip on the critical changes he has to make?  And then where is he on delivering the V2F (Vision to Focus) part of the Strategic Plan ?

The 2023-2027 Council will be reviewing and revising the Strategic Plan – that 25 year document the city creates to set out where and how they are going to grow.  Given the huge influence the province has on growth decisions it is getting increasingly difficult to craft a Strategic Plan with the Ontario Land Tribunal (OTL) making most of the decisions.

In his report, it is on the Corporate Services, Strategy, Risk and Accountability  agenda, Commisso said: “In addition to the existing City Manager led objectives that are embedded in V2F, (Vision to Focus) I am personally committed to the following overriding strategic objectives:

Improving Workplace Culture including Staff Engagement and Positive Attitudes

Achieving Job Market Wage and Salary Competitiveness

Improving Employee Retention and Attraction

Advancing Employee Health and Safety Program

Implementing an updated Performance Management Framework

NEW – Ongoing refinement and execution of Council’s 2040 Strategic Plan and 2018-2022 Vision to Focus Strategic Action Plan (V2F)

That is a lot of boxes with tick marks.

Tim Commisso on the streets of Itabasi in Japan. Following the Mayor’s lead

The concept of risk in a municipal setting is one that Commisso focused on almost from the day he started working.

He is well on his way to developing a top line management team.  There are still a few senior positions that need new blood.

Right now the focus is on creating a different working environment at city hall and ensuring that the people needed are in place to handle the onslaught of development applications that have overtaken the Planning department.

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2 comments to City manager explains what he has been up to in his annual report to Council. He ticked off a lot of boxes.

  • Fred Untermeyer

    When I came here last year, I was very impressed with the level of accomplishment communicated regularly out of City Hall with an active citizen engagement practised by City Council. Unfortunately, I have begun to see a few cracks in the wall. I am not an expert but reviewing Mr. Commisso’s “report” I have a question or two and a comment. First, were these objectives and deliverables designed by Mr. Commisso, then presented to Council for their approval or were they actually developed by Council then given to Mr. Commisso as his workplan? There is quite a difference – both in understanding of direction and involvement. And am I to understand that everything in the workplan has either been completed or is on track; that there are no deliverables that require additional attention, have not been started or are off track and at risk. If this is so, I would recommend that Council hire Mr. Commisso for the rest of his natural lifespan because he either walks on water or has hired those who do. Seriously, such a report suggests that the workplan is not composed of initiatives that are critically necessary and the result of careful planning and analysis but, rather, those that provide no organizational challenge – just a ready check box.

  • Susie

    The City Manager’s to-do-list is too little, too late, with proposed development for 2020 Lakeshore in a dire situation for immediate change! Comment made couldn’t have said it any clearer – “people are needed to handle the onslaught of development applications that have OVERTAKEN the Planning Department!!!