Opportunities abound at the municipal level, CAOs say
By Darren Lum
Published April 12, 2016
It was a stroll down memory lane as much as it was an opportunity to encourage students in high school to consider municipal work for local chief administrative officers.
Except for Minden Hills’s CAO Lorrie Blanchard, the group included all of the area CAOs: the county’s Mike Rutter, Haliburton’s Tamara Wilbee, Township of Algonquin Highlands’s Angie Bird and municipality of Highlands East’s Shannon Hunter, who spent a few minutes before the presentation to a careers class sharing laughs and poring over the yearbook photos from when they all attended Haliburton Highlands Secondary School at the same time in 1986.
Wilbee, who believes municipal work is among the best in the county, said there are many jobs available locally at the municipal government as well as career opportunities for those with the ambition to move up.
“We’re all from here and from this school. We went through the same programs you are so you have just as much opportunity as [I did]. That’s the basic overall message,” she said.
The CAO is responsible for the operation of the municipality co-ordinating the efforts of the departments to administer the township’s business affairs.
Rutter said once a person is working for the municipality there are ongoing opportunities for training.
“That’s just not the norm in every business. Sometimes you get the job and that’s the extent of what your employer wants to invest in you. In our case our employer continues to invest in us all along. It happens at every level of the organization,” he said.
Hunter remembers sitting in class at HHSS having no idea about her future.
When she first started working for the municipal government she didn’t know about the many opportunities.
“In the municipal field you don’t have to go for the top job. There are all kinds of positions in a municipality and you can educate and work your way [up] the ladder,” she said.
Other than Rutter, the group said they all started at entry-level positions such as assistants or as clerks, including secretary.
Bird started as a receptionist and took courses and worked her way up to her current position.
“I encourage all of you to look into the municipal field in your education. It’s out there. It’s interesting work and as the years go by we’re losing a lot of the older professionals that are in the municipal field.
It’s important to get the younger generation into it, which doesn’t seem to be happening. Have a look at it. It’s great work,” she said.
Municipal work includes a broad spectrum of jobs and careers.
There is work in the sciences, firefighting, water and wastewater treatment, engineering, library, computer IT. All of the jobs come with great benefits.
The group also reminded the students about the summer employment opportunities, tips on resumes, how to prepare for an interview and the importance of first impressions.
Wilbee encouraged the students to apply for jobs even if they don’t think they have enough experience.
“We could have 10 resumes with no experience you may as well come give it a shot. It doesn’t hurt to try,” she said.
Hunter said the collective concept is part of how things work at the municipalities and is a unique feature.
“Every position is just as important as the other. There is not one. You can’t run a municipality with just one person. It takes an entire municipal force to be able to effectively run your municipality so that provides ownership, whether you’re in the landfill site or if you’re in the roads department you take pride,” she said. “Another item is that a lot of the individuals at a municipal or county live in the area and they have a vested interest. We care about what happens. We want it to be successful. We don’t want to see bad things happen and that’s right across the board.”
Rutter added accountability is ever-present, as you’ll hear about what’s wrong from friends and family.
He said this is his home. It’s important he makes this an environment great for everyone.
It was a major factor in his return after living away from the area for 20 years.
“I want to make this a better place for my niece and my nephew and my mom and my dad, sister and brother-in-law. Honestly, I come to work every day feeling that I do,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Rutter acknowledges the difference with how he felt as a high school student compared to where he wants to be now that he nears retirement.
“When I was in this school, I thought, my career choices will have to be away somewhere like Toronto, wherever. My career has essentially centred very close to Haliburton County ... at the beginning I thought I wanted to be anywhere but here and as I get towards the end of my career I only want to be here. It’s kind of neat. But there are tons of opportunities available that I don’t think everybody thinks about,” he said.