Russell Mills was officially named NCC chair at a ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday. ((CBC))

Making the National Capital Commission more transparent will be a priority, says the agency's newly appointed head.

Former Ottawa Citizen publisher Russell Mills was officially named the chair of the NCC by Lawrence Cannon, the minister responsible for the federal agency, at a ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon.

Mills said he will focus on a recommendation by an external review panel to bring more accountability and openness to the agency that manages federal properties in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, which has often been criticized for its secrecy.

"I believe that transparency is the greatest promoter of accountability in public institutions," Mills said.

He told reporters that he fought for public openness during his own 35 years as a journalist.

"The fact that the government chose someone like me to be the chair is a pretty strong signal that that's what they want, too."

Mills's personal priority to improve French

Mills added in English-accented French that his personal priority is to improve his abilityin thelanguage that dominates inthe Quebecpart of the National Capital Region.

'This is my first day on the job … so don't expect me to come up with any grand vision.' —Russell Mills

Mills was reluctant to give reporters details of his opinions on specific issues.

"This is my first day on the job … so don't expect me to come up with any grand vision," he said.

Headded that he was only one of 15 members of the NCC's board.

Mills was asked what he thought of the work done by his predecessor, Marcel Beaudry, who stepped down in December.

"I think the NCC was very underfunded for a lot of his time.… I think Marcel did a good job under difficult circumstances," Mills replied.

In its last budget, the government promised $30 million in additional funding, so better times are ahead for the organization, Mills said.

Mills is currently the executive dean of the school of media and design at Ottawa's Algonquin College and said he will continue in that role, as the NCC chair position is only part-time.

Mills was the publisher of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper from 1986 until 2002, when he was fired by the newspaper's owner, CanWest Global Communications, for printing an editorial asking then prime minister Jean Chrétien to resign without first clearing it with the media chain's head office.

Mills's appointment comes less than five months after a three-member review panel released a report that called for changes to the NCC's executive structure and an end to secrecy. The commission is now preparing to appoint a new CEO and associate CEO.