By Cole Parkinson
As council has been working with LadderUp Consulting to help get things in order within the municipality, the group has been even busier with some big departures from the Municipal District of Taber.
Gabrielle Battiste and Dorian Wandzura from LadderUp Consulting were in council chambers during the M.D.’s regular meeting on Aug. 27 to give councillors a brief update on how things have been progressing since they were brought on.
“We’ve been working with you for a while now and we started things initially back in December of last year,” said Battiste. “We have a workshop with you this afternoon as well.”
Since starting their work with the M.D. late last year, LadderUp is happy with the progress made so far.
“We were originally retained to do government review and assessment and we began that work in December of 2018. We reviewed a bunch of M.D. information from existing bylaws, policies, documents and got to know all of the executives and council, the M.D.’s strategies, priorities and culture. We did comprehensive surveys and analysis, governance, oversights, strategies, operations, culture, values, workload, obstacles, strengths and weaknesses,” continued Battiste. “We have held probably over half a dozen workshops with both staff and council. We’ve done a lot of work together and separately and there has been a lot of time commitment from councillors and staff. We’ve worked on roles and responsibilities and I believe that is before you today. Council as a whole, individual councillors, reeve, deputy reeve, CAO and we have completely redone the CAO bylaw.”
Battiste also highlighted the fact they had also done work on council code of conduct as well as part of their review.
“We have reviewed the former strategic plan and mission. That was a lot of work done by everybody and we went into great detail so everybody understood exactly what the plan to move forward with the M.D. was overall,” added Battiste. “We agreed on values at the M.D. in general and their meanings in day to day work. Relationships with one another and to external parties. We created a longer time strategic plan brought on annually to address strategic requirements at the M.D. align with legal obligations.”
While plenty of tasks have been completed in the several months, both sides will continue to meet in order to make sure the M.D. is the best it can be.
In continued workshops with council and staff, LadderUp is hoping to continue to shape the municipality into a well-oiled machine.
“We revised and created bylaws and a number of policies. Now we are working towards making sure that operations align to the strategic vision of council. That is being done through following through on agendas and recording,” said Battiste. “So governance versus operations, reviewing and revising agendas, and the kind of information that is coming to council in the way it is presented to you. Is it being presented strategically? Is it addressing the questions that you’ve asked? Hopefully, we’ll kind of ween away from the operation focus and allow you to focus on running the governance.”
Meeting agendas and Requests for Decisions will also see some changes coming to the next meeting.
In an effort to streamline meetings and get council discussing key topics, changes were suggested to do just that.
“We’d like to ensure that requests for decisions are reviewed and revised so council gets the information it needs in order to make an informed decision in a timely manner,” continued Battiste.“We want to make sure all items on the agenda are there for a reason and help council move their strategic plan forward.”
Making things a bit more challenging for the M.D. comes in the fact they saw two long-serving members depart for jobs outside the municipality.
With former CAO Derrick Krizsan leaving to become the CAO in the M.D. of Willow Creek and public works director Jeremy Wickson taking on the director of public operations at Lethbridge County, two major positions are currently open.
“As this particular municipality progresses from one stage of development to another, and you are going through a substantial amount of change right now with both council and staff. The first stage is what council has already done which is moving itself away from operational involvement,” said Battiste, who also highlighted why changes are needed for all organizations. “Sometimes a key staff member, sometimes the one person everyone believes the organization cannot survive without, must be replaced for one reason or another. The goal at this phase is to stabilize the organization, revise the vision and mission, modify the strategic plan and moving forward now is a governing council.
Councillors, CAOs and directors all change, more frequently now than ever. Change is good and executives should really only stay on in their roles for CAOs kind of the same as councillors do, five years or so, six or seven years.”
While the finish line is in sight for the partnership, both sides realize they still have work to do before that happens.
“In our view, the M.D. has come a long way,” stated Battiste. “They have done a lot of work, there is some amazing foundational documentation pieces that are being put in place and we just have some final work to finish up.”