City manager putting in 15 hour days as he maneuvers around a very dynamic changing COVID19 crisis

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 18, 2020



How do you run a city when what you think what was going to be possible when you got to work proves to have changed before lunch. And by that time of day you have handled upwards of 100 emails and attended two critical meetings with two more in the afternoon.

That’s the pace City Manager Tim Commisso has found himself dealing with – and he knows it isn’t going to change any time soon.

virus imageIn an exclusive interview with the Gazette Commisso said “it has been this way since last Thursday” – “focusing on public safety and doing everything possible from an administrative point of view to help stop the spread of the virus.”

Managing virus infections is in the hands of the Hospital with the Regional Medical Officer of Health alongside to ensure that communication with the public is as clear as they can make it.

“The Province is under a State of Emergency – so they call all the shots. Two of my people keep a close watch of what comes out of the federal and provincial offices.”

The job for Commisso is to ensure that he has the resources he needs and is able to allocate them – that changes by the hour.

Treasurer Joan Ford has created special accounts to monitor the spending.

Worn down but not worn out. Burlington Hydro Gerry Smallegange and his chief of engineering talk to people at the Kilbride fire station on what was up and what wasn't yet up in terms of power lines.

Gerry Smallgage, Hydro president has a lot of crisis management experience – he was front and center during the 2013 ice storm.

All the senior staff on the Emergency Control Group are putting in the same long hours. Gerry Smallgage, President of Burlington Hydro, sits in on the ECG meetings as does the Mayor who ensures that members of council are fully engaged.

Commisso reports that about 5% of staff are working from home. He added that there is a certain amount of “apprehension” within city hall but added that “all the senior staff on the Emergency Control Group have worked very hard on our COVID 19 emergency response…very proud of their work as a team especially over the past week.”

We are dealing with a different reality – a situation that is dynamic, changing every time there is a change at the federal and provincial levels.

BTTB - O canada

Burlington Teen Tour Band was cancelled due to concerns over COVID19 in the United States.

“A week ago we cancelled the Teen Tour Band trip to the United States,” said Commisso. “and we did so very reluctantly – there wouldn’t be any reluctance today.

“We are in meetings that run from an hour to four and a half hours; the volume of information is staggering. Work done at the municipal level impacts on almost everyone.

I am in touch with the Regional CAO at least once a day.

Mayor Meed Ward sits in on all critical meetings and attends the meetings at the hospital as well. It is in situations like this where the Mayor excels – she is a Momma Bear when there is a challenge and loves situations where decisions have to be made quickly and a questioning voice is needed.

Coordinating communications is the critical part –people need to know what we are all up against.
“I am currently working within a three week window – keeping a close eye on the resources I have and where I might have to allocate them.”

Commisso stare

City Manager Tim Commisso – 15 hour days.

Asked if he thought this was what the job was going to be when Marianne Meed Ward invited him for coffee – there was a long pause before he said – “I did have six solid weeks of experience getting Thunder Bay through the flood they had while I was CAO there.”

Asked if there were summer vacation plans for the Commisso family in place, Commisso just sighed.

Which raises an important question:  Should Commisso fall ill – who would fill the shoes he wears?

Get Gaz yellow

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 comments to City manager putting in 15 hour days as he maneuvers around a very dynamic changing COVID19 crisis

  • Jake

    Anne and Dave, relax. Meetings are being done over conference call. Give the team some credit. MMW has proven herself a competent and compassionate leader throughout this. I’m not sure others would have handled it as well or more importantly gotten the respect from the team.

  • Penny Hersh

    It would be interesting to know if the Emergency Control Group practice social distancing when they are in meetings? Is it a good idea for both the Mayor and Tim Commisso to be together in these meetings, if that is what is happening?

    Perhaps the Mayor should be on video chat for the ECG meetings as well as the meetings at the hospital?

    As stated in the article “Should Commisso fall ill – who would fill the shoes he wears”.

    • Perryb

      Questions, questions…. How stupid do you think our leaders are? Why not join the Emergency team and offer to help?

      • Citizens have a right to ask questions of their elected and appointed officials in these kind of circumstances. The suggestion of joining the Emergency Team is not possible as we are sure you are aware. Being part of a citizen wide Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committe is but Burlington have not been open to such in the past – perhaps this will change. Anne had a major role in the 80’s Medical Emergency Preparedness exercises in Hamilton. Emergency Preparednress was one of Anne’s platforms on her last run for mayor of Burlington in 2014! Past failure to properly deal with infection control emergencies and the horrific outcome for families in this community is dealt with in our upcoming book A summary report of Chapter 7 – Skeletons in the Closet entitled “On Bryant’s Watch” can be found on the ALERTS page of and was recently placed in the Ontario Seniors Minister and Burlington MPP hands.

  • Etts Price

    Kudos to all those keeping our City operating and as safe as possible. It certainly wasn’t in anyone’s job descriptions. Thank You!!!

    • Anne and David

      It certainly is in their job descriptions ensuring the wellbeing of Burlington citizens and financial integrity of the city is exactly what they signed up for. The Mayor would be better attending hospital meetings digitally. JBH needs as little traffic as possible for the same reason LTCs are closed to visitors.

    • Rob Allan

      I agree Etts. Kudos to all those that are working to handle this crisis. We don’t need those questioning decisions that need to be made on the fly and with the best intensions.