Emo hires Brown to bridge staffing shortage

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Acting CAO aims to assist township for short term

Facing a staffing shortage which forced the closure of the municipal office last week, the Township of Emo has appointed Doug Brown, former CAO of Fort Frances, as its acting CAO for a short-term period.

Brown retired from the CAO position in Fort Frances in May, after being involved in municipal government for 30 years. Brown will serve in the position while CAO Bridget Foster is on leave.

“I was kind of bored, to be honest,” Brown said. “If you get used to working 60 hours a week, going from 60 to zero is hard on you. I golfed all summer, but I can’t go anywhere because of COVID. I thought it’s probably good for myself.”

Brown said getting more staff in the town office is a first priority, while making sure the municipality continues to collect tax revenues in order to fund this year’s budget.

“I was probably the highest paid receptionist in Ontario last week, because I was the only one in the office collecting the tax,” Brown chuckled.

Brown hopes he can bring some of his expertise to the Township’s administration.

“I think they need to look at changing their operating and capital budget formats,” he added. “I’m going to help them with that.”

“Another thing that should happen during the budget process is applying for all the available grant programs that are out there,” Brown said, adding that there are some programs that could still be applied for before the end of the year.

And Brown said he wants to tackle working on the asset management plan.

“The official plan has to be looked at. All their policies and procedures on how they hired people have to be looked at,” Brown said. “The procedural bylaws on interaction between Council and the administration could be looked at, as well.”

Brown said he has not had any negative interactions with anyone during his brief tenure so far.

Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker said they are doing some interviews for the vacant positions, including the casual secretary and deputy treasurer roles.

“It’s been trying times, it’s been tough to get people,” McQuaker said. “It seems to be just an ongoing battle. There are so many jobs out there for the people that are there to provide the skills for those jobs.”

McQuaker said the Emo municipality is a great place to work, adding that he’s going into his fourth year as mayor with the same council he started out with.

“This didn’t seem to happen in the previous councils,” McQuaker added. “Council works hard along with me, and we face the hurdles as they come to us, none of us want or look for that hurdle to happen. We’ll get through it. I’m sure everything will work out in the end.”

Brown said he will not run the election for the municipality next year, adding that he sees himself as a mentor who is able to understand the regulations, and communicate them so others can understand.

Brown also said that municipalities are now calling on the integrity commissioners for the first time.

“That legislation just came in with this term of the last four years of council,” Brown said. “That was never there. That is starting to cripple municipal organizations for services.”

Brown stressed that his role is temporary, after which he hopes to have made sure the regulations are followed, reducing the liabilities to the municipal organization.

“At the end of the day, I’m trying to help them get through this time,” Brown said. “I want to see that they have proper people in their place; I don’t get into politics.”