City manager to leave. Was he pushed or did he jump? Neither – he stepped aside.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON July 27, 2011 He has been with us for four years and is in the last stretch of his five year contract with Burlington as City Manager. Early in the year he approached the Mayor to get a sense of what his thoughts were on a contract extension – found that there probably wasn’t going to be one and discussed a number of options – one of which was to step aside – and that is what he did. Roman Martiuk leaves his office at the end of August.

Roman Martiuk listened and when he had a contribution to make – he was always heard.  Here he communicates with Georgina Black during the Strategic Planning Sessions

Roman Martiuk listened and when he had a contribution to make – he was always heard. Here he communicates with Georgina Black during the Strategic Planning Sessions

What did he achieve while he was with us? Was he worth the $215,000 + we paid him? Is Burlington a better place because of what Roman Martiuk got done – and did the city ever really get to know the man?

For the most part he ran a happy ship. He is a great numbers guy and he knew the rules of the game better than anyone else on campus and has to be credited for developing his staff and introducing new systems, procedures and approaches

In a memo to his staff he said: “Throughout my career I have tended to stay with organizations for no more than five years, as I firmly believe that a key part of being a successful change agent is taking the organization as far as you can and then transitioning to a new manager who can build on your successes and take the next steps.” Was Roman Martiuk a change agent?


“The decision to transition to a new City Manager was one that was made after extensive discussion between myself, the Mayor and Council.  In fact, it is a discussion that was in large part initiated by me and a decision which I fully support”, said Martiuk.

“In the last four years we have had a number of successes.  These successes are even more impressive given the challenging nature of the environment and economy under which we were operating.  Our accomplishments include:

  • Implementing a new budget system with a strategic focus
  • Introducing a cost containment program with $27.5 million in savings since the start of the program.
  • Developing a new 10 year capital plan achieving $69 million in savings
  • Implementing  the asset management approach to capital budgeting
  • Increasing reserves from 6% to 10% of own source revenues
  • Designing and constructing a $40 million performing arts centre
  • Completing a corporate reorganization
  • Work load measuring and redeploying staff in response to the recession, and
  • The relocation of the McMaster school of business to Burlington

While Martiuk was involved in all of these accomplishments – he wasn’t the leading force in many of them. He lead a team that got these jobs done. He was a sound financial manager and he constantly hammered away at the significant infrastructure shortfall of more than 30% He never let an opportunity to make that point go by without a comment from him.

He came in when a very dynamic Mayor was leaving office and had to work with a Mayor who was very intrusive and a staff that was not as in sync with the community it served as it needed to be. Significant changes were made on his watch. All of his top line manager – the General Manager levels were changed while Martiuk was city manager.

The Pier fiasco took place on his watch but one can’t fault Martiuk for that one. A lousy contract was entered into before he had the keys to his office. The best he could do was attempt to manage a situation that went from bad to worse. In a somewhat plaintive tone, Martiuk says he “wishes the Pier had been completed while he was city manager. I would have liked to dance on it.”

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre got built on his watch but to be candid the BPAC Board raised the money and got the building in place on time and on budget. The project was designed and tendered by the city.

Martiuk came to Burlington from Prince Albert Saskatchewan and had to fill the shoes left under the desk by Tim Dobbie, who was Mayor MacIssac’s right hand man. He faced a staff that had to undergo significant refurbishment and at the same time work with a Mayor with a very distinct personality shaped by years as a Minister at Queen’s Park and absolutely no municipal experience. The two didn’t even know each other.

In leaving Prince Albert, Martiuk said: “I really hadn’t been looking. I was contacted by a professional in the (human resources) business and he told me about this opportunity,” said Martiuk. His first day on the job in Prince Albert was March 21, 2005.

The thinking it through was always part of the job – here Martiuk does his homework alongside staff and Council members.

The thinking it through was always part of the job – here Martiuk does his homework alongside staff and Council members.

Martiuk had family in Ontario and a daughter at McMaster and the money in Burlington was a lot better than that in Prince Albert.

During Martiuk’s tenure with Prince Albert, he established new systems, reduced costs, improved the city’s competitive position and recruited a number of new department heads. Which is basically what he has done for Burlington.

The guy has a remarkable education and, based on his resume, a pretty decent track record. He is clearly a solid administrator. The bulk of his career was with a Burlington Mayor that he found it very difficult to work with. Cam Jackson didn’t understand municipal government and Martiuk didn’t yet have the grip he needed on his team. Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor described Jackson as the Mayor who thought he had been elected President of Burlington.”

So – why did Roman Martiuk offer to step aside? He is adamant that he did not resign. resign – probably because he didn’t think he was going to be offered a contract extension. This Council works quite well. The newly elected Mayor knew he was going to need help and brought in a trusted colleague to help him steer his way through a thicket he wasn’t all that familiar with. The decision to bring in Frank McKeown, a very experienced corporate operative, has resulted in a more hard nosed approach to the way things get done. Add to that mix Paul Sharman, a new council member with significant corporate experience and not the least bit shy about making blunt comments and you now have a council that needs much different care and feeding.

The Mayor’s announcement – and notice that is was the Mayor’s announcement and not a joint statement by Martiuk and the Mayor, sets it out pretty clearly. The city wanted a different kind of manager and this was an opportune time to cut their ties with the existing manager and go looking for someone who was more “corporate”, prepared to work with a Council in a different way, get critical data in their hands in a much more timely manner and someone who bought into the concept of community engagement in a way that Martiuk wasn’t comfortable with. Many at City Hall thought the Shape Burlington report that Mayor Jackson commissioned and had done by an independent committee, was unfair to city hall staff and it took them some time to get comfortable with the report. Martiuk deserves credit for pulling his team together and holding their ground while the battle for supremacy took place.

Martiuk would frequently say that staff is in place to serve council and all they could do was give their best advice. It may have been very good advice but Council didn’t want another five years of it.

While this Council is backing away from parts of the report they all ran on in the 2010 election and supported it unanimously and they have a community group watching them carefully to ensure they live up to the eight recommendations in the document.

While Roman Martiuk is all business he has a well developed sense of humour that was evident in the costume he wore one Halloween – he came dressed as the devil. His was a happy ship.

The child of immigrant parents who met each other in Canada, Martiuk always worked after school and worked hard at school. He earned a Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering degree; is a Professional engineer; is a certified Management Accountant; has an MBA and holds two certificates in Human Resource management.

What then does Martiuk’s resignation mean for Burlington? That we are losing a well qualified man for sure. But there is more to all this than just that. Council has a very clear agenda and a direction it wants to take Burlington – and they just didn’t think Roman Martiuk was the man to help them get there. There are others at the senior level that don’t fit in with the agenda Council has. Can we expect to see more resignations?

Somewhere out there, there is a municipal council that needs a manager who can fix whatever financial mess they are in. Google Roman Martiuk or track him down in LinkedIn – he’s available




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