I attended an orientation session for newly elected Oak Bay Council members this week that was, in my view, excellent. Mark Brennan, CAO and other senior staff joined us for the four hour workshop, conducted by leading municipal governance expert Dr. Gordon McIntosh. Dr. McIntosh works with municipal and regional governments all over Canada and also teaches at the university level.
Workshop content had something for everybody, whether you were brand new to Council or more experienced. Emphasizing the need for collaborative leadership at the civic level, Dr. McIntosh outlined the following:
- focus of local government services and activity
- polticial responsibilities and structure
- roles of Council and Mayor
- the public interest
- roles/expertise of municipal administration and political interface
- local government functions (strategy, policy and systems)
- defining success
- proactive and reactive governance strategies
I was told that this was one of the first opportunities that senior staff have had to sit down with Mayor and Council to talk about some of these important topics. In my experience, joint staff/Council meetings are an excellent forum in which to share common interests, concerns and goals. Maintaining a positive working relationship between Council and staff is critical to moving work forward and I would hope to see these meetings continue on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly.
This was also a great opportunity to get to know other Council members and to share some of our own expectations about this important work. Thanks to senior staff and Mayor-Elect Nils Jensen for helping to make this orientation such a success.