Calgary

Vacant top jobs at Calgary's city hall to be filled soon

A quick scan of the organization chart of top city jobs shows plenty of those people are filling in for their departed boss.

One quarter of top city jobs have an acting manager doing the work

Calgary city manager David Duckworth said he's hoping to attract and retain dedicated public servants for some of the vacant top jobs with the city. (Mike Symington/CBC)

A quick scan of the organization chart of top jobs at the City of Calgary shows plenty of people are filling in for their departed boss.

Several departmental directors have been temporarily promoted to fill in as general managers.

The recruitment process is underway for the recently retired city solicitor.

The former deputy city manager, Brad Stevens, retired at the end of November.

City manager David Duckworth was himself promoted from a departmental GM position when he was named the City of Calgary's new top bureaucrat last summer.

He's well aware of the situation.

"We have about a quarter of our senior management team, which is about 50-ish managers, that are in acting capacities," said Duckworth.

"That's way too much."

Boomers departing

Duckworth said many of the positions have been vacated by retiring baby boomers who have departed after lengthy careers in the public service.

But others have left for greener pastures, either to take advantage of opportunities with other municipalities or seizing the chance to make more money in the private sector.

He acknowledges some positions would have been filled sooner but he's planning to roll out changes to the city's management structure over the next few months.

"Once we — my team and I — know what the organization is going to look like, when we make a few tweaks, I'm going to fill those positions as quickly as I possibly can," said Duckworth.

His goal is to modernize the civic government and make it more efficient so it's better able to provide services to Calgarians.

He acknowledged that there has been too much uncertainty in having so many people in acting positions.

However, filling those vacant jobs may be easier said than done. 

Duckworth said he wants to make sure the city isn't just a training ground for top talent. He wants to attract and retain dedicated public servants.

"Part of the challenge I have right now is we've been losing quite a few of our management staff because believe it or not, salaries in the private sector are a lot better than they are at the City of Calgary for many of our positions."

Change is natural

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said turnover at the top is a natural thing in any organization.

He pointed out that only one senior manager who was on the job when he was sworn into office in late 2010 remains on the city payroll today.

From his vantage point, Nenshi said there haven't been any issues with having so many managers filling in for those who have departed. 

He said these managers aren't just caretakers. They're empowered to make decisions.

"We have a good corporate culture here," said Nenshi. 

"They are actually doing the job and so I'm very, very pleased with my colleagues and how they've come to the table, even when they're in these acting roles, just getting stuff done," said the mayor.

He said some jobs have been deliberately held open longer than expected so that Duckworth's restructuring plan can be fleshed out and implemented. 

Then they can get down to filling the positions that will be posted. 

City needs to attract new talent

Like Duckworth, Nenshi shares the concern about attracting new talent to the organization.

He said there have been salary freezes in place for several years for managers and management-exempt employees.

The law department has lost about one-third of its lawyers because private companies can pay significantly more than the city can.

He said the city is taking a look at its total compensation package to see if changes are needed.

For example, Nenshi said someone like the city's director of human resources would make significantly more money in the private sector, even though they'd be responsible for a lot fewer people and fewer job classifications. 

"The people who do those sorts of things, the senior managers at the city, we're very lucky to have them because they are doing it because they believe in public service."

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