BREAKING NEWS - De Soto named new CAO
Canmore council revealed the last piece of its municipal government puzzle at a special meeting, Thursday (July 26) when it appointed Lisa de Soto as the new permanent chief administrative officer following a rigorous search that involved about 57 applicants.
De Soto accepted the role after eight months' experience as interim CAO, which proved to be one of her assets when reviewed by both council and Legacy Executive Search, the consulting company hired to assist the town. Don Kochan left the position last November.
"One of the things it does do is provide some credibility to the process," said Councillor Hans Helder regarding the hiring of the consultant. "It's important to the public, it's important to council and it's important to the candidates. Council doesn't want to be looking over its shoulder wondering if they should have done something better.
"Similarly with the CAO, when he or she is selected, she should know she is the best candidate," he continued. "The organization was in good hands so we weren't in a great rush. We thought, let's make sure we do this right rather than do it fast."
Helder said input concerning the appointment of a new CAO was provided by staff, senior management and, of course, council, adding that every candidate was assessed with a criteria revolving around leadership and management skills, as well as having a good relationship with council and administration.
"She was the strongest candidate at the end of the day," he said. "We have a lot at stake in the CAO role. We took this very seriously and worked with the committee to ensure we got the candidate with the right skill set."
Mayor John Borrowman echoed Helder's comments about de Soto and added that despite the difficulties surrounding the position, council feels it now has the right person in place to handle the job.
"It's a difficult role to fill because she has to have a good relationship and be receptive to council's wishes," Borrowman said. "She also has to translate that for staff and keep a really positive work ethic.
"Council has had a number of months to see how she could fill the role," he added. "Personally, I have no doubt she will fill that role very well. In fact, all of council felt that way, which is why we appointed her as acting CAO back in November."
The mayor pointed out that the process started with almost 60 applicants. The number was shortlisted to 11 and eventually only four were interviewed, de Soto included.
"Right off the bat there was a very clear consensus that Lisa was the preferred candidate," he said. "There were some very good other candidates."
Although the new CAO has been appointed, council is still waiting on lawyers to deliver the contract for them to sign, which the mayor said would be made available to the public, barring some clauses that will remain private.
"That's part of our negotiation that was made clear - that we'd like to have the contract online for everyone to see," he explained. "There may be a couple of clauses that have to be protected for privacy, though.
"The main terms will be public," he added. "Everybody's comfortable with that, including the CAO. We're 95 per cent there and there's a good chance we'll be able to sign the contract tomorrow (July 27)."
Surrounded by her friends and family, de Soto said she was overwhelmed with the amount of support from community members who turned out at the special meeting. The last several months of experience has helped the former deputy CAO truly embrace the role she now has on a permanent basis.
"Right away they said 'we don't want a warm body'. They said 'do what you can to show us how you would lead'," de Soto recalled when council appointed her as the interim CAO last fall. "I feel like that's part of the result today.
"I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead," she added. "I'm looking forward to working with a new council and a new team. Every time there's a change there's an opportunity to take the best of the old and create some new and then move forward."
The new CAO said some of the more pertinent issues on the horizon are the opening of Elevation Place, the uncertainty of Three Sisters, and the receivership issue, as well as obtaining property access agreements to move forward with the rabbit management plan in early November.
With the town's recent election of a new mayor and two new councillors, de Soto believes the CAO selection is the last piece of a puzzle that will provide stability to not only council, but the community as well.
"I think that this gives certainty to staff and to the community that says, "OK, we've got the team, we're moving forward and we're poised to succeed."