Respect key to efficient municipal government

Ken Boshcoff had a Motown message for those attending the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual meeting last week in Devlin.
The former mayor of Thunder Bay was one of the guest speakers at the 13th-annual meeting and he made it clear the key to successful staff-council relations was right in the title of that great Aretha Franklin hit.
“Elected representatives and staff must view their relationship as a working partnership,” said Boshcoff. “It’s vital that each party in the relationship understand its own goals, and understands and respects the goals and responsibilities of the other.”
Boshcoff noted while municipal councils generally are composed of people from a variety of different backgrounds, municipal staff tend to be well-trained professionals who are in for the long term.
Consequently, their experience and know-how can—and should—be a valuable asset to the council. That’s not to say, however, that council should pass off important decisions to staff.
“Whatever their professions in private life, the elected representatives at the municipal level are not elected to be managers or technical experts. They are there to represent their community,” Boshcoff explained.
“And civil servants are not hired to play a political role,” he added.
In other words, elected reps give political direction while staff provide professional judgment. The key to making that work, Boshcoff said, is to always keep that in mind and treat each other in a respectful, professional manner.
“Your job is to make decisions based on the broader public and future of the community,” he remarked. “And let’s keep the word ‘civil’ in civil service.”