McCaig looking forward to job ahead as CAO

From cutting grass for the town 28 years ago as a summer student to working his way to CEO and president of the Fort Frances Power Corp., Mark McCaig officially was hired on as the new CAO by council Monday.
“It’s nice to be selected, no doubt,” he said yesterday. “But I do have mixed emotions. I’m very proud of the power corporation. There’s great people working there and I’ll miss working alongside them.”
McCaig has been acting CAO since Bill Naturkach retired Sept. 30. He will resign from his position with the FFPC as of May 1, but continue to assist it until a new CEO is hired there.
“It’s been a lot of work doing the two jobs together,” he remarked.
After taking on the job of acting CAO last year in what some may call a baptism under fire, McCaig made it clear he has no illusions about the year ahead being easy
“The challenges facing the Town of Fort Frances are well-documented, but they’re not insurmountable,” he remarked. “People have to realize these things might not be fixed in one budget.”
He noted council and management will be involved in an on-going process to develop a strategic plan this year and get a better idea of how the town can operate as efficiently as possible while still being able to provide all the necessary services for its citizens.
McCaig stressed striking this balance between services and efficiencies should not be mistaken as a move to make any job cuts.
“I think it should be recognized that the people who work for the Town of Fort Frances are first-rate, and should be valued as such,” he noted. “I’ve found a lot of integrity in the staff. They have pride in their jobs.”
While the town was without a permanent CAO since Sept. 30, Mayor Dan Onichuk had stressed the selection process shouldn’t be rushed and that council must not have had any doubts in their minds that they made the right choice.
“Council, as a whole, made the decision. But personally, I think Mark is going to do a great job,” Mayor Onichuk said Monday evening.
“With the budget and all, there’s been a learning curve for him, for sure,” the mayor added. “And there will continue to be a learning curve for him, dealing with broader municipal issues.”
McCaig first started working for the town as a student 28 years ago. Then after finishing school, he went to work for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) 21 years ago.
Since then, he’s continued his education with technical courses related to his job with the PUC (which later became the FFPC), as well as municipal management courses.
As CAO, some of McCaig’s duties include:
•directing the day-to-day affairs of the municipality in accordance with council-approved policies and plans;
•organizing operations and activities of the municipality into departments, bureaus, and other administrative agencies;
•attending all council and committee meetings, making observations and suggestions;
•recommending to council the appointments of heads of departments;
•overseeing managers in the exercise of their responsibilities;
•submitting regular reports to council on the operations of various municipal departments;
•acting as a liaison between mayor and council and town management;
•working with council and senior managers to facilitate and co-ordinate corporate planning and strategy development activities;
•ensuring all legislative requirements are met and complied with by administration;
•co-ordinating all grant and subsidy applications for the municipality, and participate with division managers and subordinates to draw up funding applications and review specifications and tender bids; and
•as necessary, meeting on behalf of the town with counterparts in other municipalities, representatives of agencies, boards, and commissions, other levels of government, and members of the community.
Council began interviewing the shortlist of three CAO applicants in late February.
These final interviews included the CAO selection committee, consisting of Mayor Onichuk and Couns. Roy Avis and Neil Kabel, as well as the rest of council (Tannis Drysdale, Struchan Gilson, Todd Hamilton, and Rick Wiedenhoeft).
The candidates for the job were trimmed to a shortlist of three at the end of January, at which time the finalists were approved by council to move on to the interview process.
The selection committee had first met a half-dozen applicants for the position Jan. 9 in Thunder Bay.
A “headhunter” from the consulting firm of Wescott Thomas, which was retained by the town a few months ago as executive search consultant for the purpose of finding candidates for the position of CAO, initially had located more than 20 possible people for job, then narrowed it down to eight.