Has council had an impressive peek at its next city manager?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

September 17th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

About once a month – there is this tour de force that takes place at a Standing Committee.

Sheila Jones, the former City Auditor, found herself going toe to toe with a member of Council.  The Councillor lost.

Sheila Jones

Sheila Jones: Executive Director of Strategy, Risk and Accountability.

The difference of opinion had to do with just how much information Jones was prepared to release when all hell was breaking loose over the Customer Relation Management software that had gone off the tracks and was badly in need of some resuscitation.

That occasion was the first time we saw the feistiness that is very much a part of the Jones persona. It wasn’t something we saw in her as a shy auditor.

City Manager Tim Commisso was in the process of redesigning his senior management team; every city manager seems to need to do a re-ordering of the Colonels in his army. Jones got chosen in a competition for an Executive Director of Strategy, Risk and Accountability.

Several months before her appointment Jones led Council and Staff in a workshop session on risk and strategy. She acted like a cheerleader – pushing the importance of risk when creating a strategy.  That kind of positive push is seldom seen at city hall.

When COVID-19 hit the world Commisso wisely put Jones in a command role. She pulls together the data she needs from throughout the departments – she knows their role, the department strengths and weakness – she used to audit them.

Earlier today she took council through a review of where things stood given the COVID environment – financially, and the status of the work being done by each department.

On occasion she refers (not defers) to Commisso for a comment.

Sheila Jones - in group

Sheila Jones, second from the right – went to to toe with a council member – we saw real leadership.

In the past couple of months we hear less and less from Commisso. The pace for him has been brutal – it certainly wasn’t what he thought he was taking on when he was asked to serve as the interim city manager when James Ridge was shown the door.

Commisso had worked for the city for a number of years earlier in his municipal career – he knew where all the bones were buried. This was going to be a another layer of income for his retirement years.

Tim-Commisso-finger-up-hard-eyes

Commisso raising his hand – not something we see very often. He tends to be quiet, laid back and delegates much of the time.

Then COVID hit the fan – and his world changed. And he really didn’t have that great a team in place. There was some baggage that he had to pack and ship out. And some of his stronger people had to leave their jobs – behavioral issues.

In his re-design Commisso found this gem – did he know how well Jones would serve?

Hard to tell but there is no denying that she has a firm grip on the wheel and is determining the course much of the time.

Hard to find a negative word about the woman.

The question that comes to mind is this: what is the city going to do when the Commisso contract comes to an end. It won’t (shouldn’t) be extended.

Jones Audit-Jones-said-no-1

Some much needed energy and positivity from Sheila Jones.

Is Sheila Jones a possible next city manager?

Why not – Hamilton has a woman doing the job – and based on what we have seen so far Sheila Jones could (and should) lead.

Would she be able to work with Mayor Meed Ward? Not that many woman find they can work with this Mayor; her very competitive nature and habit of using up all the oxygen in a room makes it difficult at times.

Mayor Meed Ward has other political mountains to climb – Jones could make her look very good allowing the Mayor claim she made it all possible as she moves on to the provincial level.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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