Nova Scotia

Town of Mulgrave hopes to hire new CAO in January

The town of Mulgrave hopes to hire a new chief administrative officer in January. It will be the town's third CAO in the past four years.

Darlene Sampson, the town's CAO since 2019, leaving for personal reasons

In 2017, the town of Mulgrave tried to go through a dissolution process so it could be amalgamated with the Municipality of Guysborough, but withdrew when Guysborough officials opposed the move. (Robert Short/CBC)

The town of Mulgrave hopes to hire a new chief administrative officer in January, the town's third in four years.

Darlene Sampson is leaving for personal reasons. She has been both the CAO and the chief financial officer for Mulgrave since 2019.

Sampson said she also had to act as a bylaw enforcement officer and a building manager when the town took over the former school building.

The town's offices and recreation department have moved into part of the former school. Another section has been renovated so it can be leased.

"That became a very big workload for me," said Sampson. "I remember mornings getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get to the building by 6:30 a.m. to open it for people who wanted to rent it to do training."

Sampson is a chartered accountant. She said she had no qualms about the finance officer's duties, but admits she had no experience as a CAO.

She said it can be "a big job, especially in a small town where you don't have a lot of staff."

Mulgrave has already hired a separate finance officer and Sampson thinks that will help reduce the amount of turnover in the CAO position.

The president of Nova Scotia's Association of Municipal Administrators says new CAOs can reach out for help.

"We've got a list of everything from model bylaws to best practices and even educational packages,'' said Mike Dolter, who is CAO for Truro. "If anyone is overwhelmed they can always get a hold of us."

Mulgrave is facing a number of financial challenges that involve paying for part of a new sewage system and repaving its deteriorating roads. But Sampson said the support of councillors and the residents kept her going.

"They weren't just around the council table, if they were off work or retired, they'd be coming with their sleeves rolled up and a paintbrush in their hands ready to do repair work," said Sampson. "Their volunteerism has been instrumental in keeping the town on its feet."

In 2017, the town tried to go through a dissolution process so it could be amalgamated with the Municipality of Guysborough, but withdrew when Guysborough officials opposed the move.

Sampson said some people are probably surprised that Mulgrave has survived the past four years. But she points out the province's annual financial assessment of the town has greatly improved.

"It was mostly red, now it's mostly green," said Sampson. "Mulgrave is very resilient."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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