Amherstburg Moves Forward With Appointment Of Interim CAO

Hang in there, Amherstburg! It’s going to be OK. 😊

There have been a few disconcerting headlines lately, but this Town still has a great story to tell!

The Amherstburg sign at the visitors' centre

I went on some long bike rides this weekend and was inspired, yet again, by the beauty of our Town, built on a foundation of resilience, hard work, compassion and strength.

People were walking their dogs on the Greenway or strolling through award-winning King’s Navy Yard Park, sipping coffees, slurping ice cream and snapping sunset selfies.

Others were eating and drinking on our amazing patios or listening to Music Off The Back Porch in support of Park House Museum, just one of our many signature attractions.A band plays at Music Off The Back Porch at Park House Museuem

Others hit the links and played golf or our waterways to fish and kayak or they were enjoying our incredible cycling routes, with spectacular views of Lake Erie, Big Creek and the Rivers Detroit and Canard.

We are fortunate to live in such an historic, beautiful Town and I think it’s important to remain optimistic and positive at times like this, when there may be a tendency to diminish our accomplishments and to imagine the worst.

There has been significant turnover at Town Hall over the past two months. It is not an ideal situation, no doubt, but I have faith that the staff who remain will continuing stepping up, as they have done throughout the pandemic, in service of the residents of Amherstburg.

The turnover at Town Hall brings back memories of 2013, of course, but the Town is on a much sounder financial footing now than we were then, with less debt and more in reserves.

I know residents have questions and I know it is frustrating to not have all the answers. I am committed to transparency, especially when it comes to projects, plans and financials. We need updates on Duffy’s, our parks, the community hub and more, but we need to be patient and give staff time to prepare detailed and accurate reports. When it comes to personnel issues, I am limited in what I can say by confidentiality requirements.Residents work on the community garden at the hub

Long-time Clerk Paula Parker will begin a new stint as Clerk in Kingsville beginning Oct. 12 and Treasurer Justin Rousseau is moving on to become Corporate Leader/Chief Financial Officer for the Municipality of Lakeshore, it was reported Friday.

Rousseau told The Windsor Star he was “thankful for the wonderful seven years” at the Town and cited the reduction in debt as his proudest achievement. Parker said serving council and her hometown community had been “her honour” and that she would “watch for good things to continue to come from this great group of people.”

I wish them both nothing but the best and thank them for their service to our Town. I will miss Paula’s incredible work ethic, her passion for Amherstburg and her knowledge of municipal matters. I will miss Justin’s savvy sense of style and rare ability to explain in layman’s terms arcane financial concepts.

The Town’s Manager of Human Resources recently moved on as well, it was reported, and all of these departures, of course, come on the heels of the announcement in August that three senior employees -- the CAO, the Director of Planning and Development Services and the Director of Corporate Services -- were no longer employed by the Town.

There is no question we are losing a significant amount of institutional knowledge and we are also operating with a depleted staff complement exacerbated by the Town’s vaccination policy, supported unanimously by Council. There will be short-term stresses to be sure but they can be managed and over the mid-to-longer-term the Town can benefit from new voices, new energy, new ideas and potentially new and better ways of doing things.The new bakery in Amherstburg

I would like to thank the Town employees who have stepped up and filled positions on an interim basis and for continuing to come into work with positive attitudes and doing your best to serve the residents of Amherstburg. The business of our Town has continued to move forward despite the turnover at Town Hall and our momentum can only grow from here.

The Town announced Friday that Tony Haddad had been appointed by Council as Interim Chief Administrative Officer. Haddad has a wealth of municipal leadership experience, having served as CAO for the Town of Tecumseh from 2007 to 2019.

He has taken a leave of absence from his role as Senior Advisor for StrategyCorp, the consulting firm that conducted the Town’s Service Delivery Review, so he is already well versed in the Town’s operations and issues as well as municipal best practices across the province.

When Haddad retired, Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara offered the following praise: “Tony has been an excellent support to the town and council during his tenure and his guidance has allowed us to achieve the success we have. Under his leadership we have experienced positive growth, increased private and commercial development, implemented successful long-term financial planning and received numerous awards and recognition. His replacement will have big shoes to fill.”A rendering of a new hotel planned for downtown Amherstburg

I believe Haddad’s experience will serve this Council and this Town well and provide some stability as we navigate these next few weeks and months and I welcome him to the team and wish him the best. His appointment as Interim CAO is a positive step forward.

When the chips were down in Windsor during the financial crisis of 2007-08, and the region led the country in unemployment for many months, a consultant stressed how important it was to focus on the positive, to celebrate every new job that was created and every new business that was opened. It was good advice then and it’s good advice now.

Development is still booming in Amherstburg. People want to live here. The hotel developer plans to break ground in the spring. A new high school is rising in the centre of Town. A Community Garden has taken root at the hub. We have new businesses opening up from downtown to McGregor, including a bakery, a candy store and a farmhouse market. We have charitable groups raising funds for worthy causes like the House Youth Centre, Fighting Island Boxing Club, Camp Bryerswood and a new basketball court for the kids in Anderdon. Kids are back on the ice at the Libro. It was another successful season for Open Air Weekends and the Uncommon Festival was an absolute smash. The list goes on. I’m in no hurry for the cold of winter, but I can’t wait until River Lights!

There are just so many positive things going on in Amherstburg. I’m going to try and stay focused on them and I hope you’ll join me. This Town has been making history for more than 200 years and our best days are yet to come. Thanks, and Go Aburg!

An image of Donald McArthur urging people to sign up for his newsletter