100 Days: A conversation with the Mayor and CAO

South Dundas chief administrative officer Shannon Geraghty (left) and mayor Steven Byvelds (right). (The Leader/Comfort photo)

MORRISBURG – 100 days. That’s how long it’s been since the current council took office.

The Leader sat down with South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds and South Dundas chief administrative officer Shannon Geraghty to have a conversation about the first 100 days of this term. Byvelds was asked to speak from a council perspective and Geraghty from the municipal staff perspective.

What do you want people to know about your first 100 days?

Byvelds: I felt confident going into this term with the council that the people of South Dundas elected that things were going to change. We all bring our different skills to the table and I think that’s really shown in the last 100 days.

Nobody’s there to dominate the meeting. We all have skill sets that together will make sure things get done.

It was shown throughout the election that there were perceived challenges.

I’m not saying everything is perfect yet. We went in with the attitude that staff’s there to work with us and to work alongside us. If they’re given the right challenges, right attitude I think that’s the way we wanted to go forward.

Geraghty: If I look at last year compared to this year, I see a reset from staff perspective.

I see a willingness of staff who are engaged to work with the council of the community to not only better the community but on a long term plan.

The visioning session was also a really key point which allowed council and the directors to collaborate, to not only work together, but to have some thorough discussion on where we think the next four or five years will go.

If I look at some departments over the last few years they have felt defeated. I see a renewed energy, a new kind of outlook as far as working with this new council.

I see a total shift in collaboration between this council and staff right now.

We know as staff we’re not going to get everything we want, but as long as there’s that respect on both sides, we’ll provide the information needed and it’s up to council to make the decisions.

I hope the momentum continues like this because I think we can achieve a lot together, rather than going the opposite way.

Has a lot been accomplished in the first 100 days?

Byvelds: I believe we’ve done quite a bit.

The visioning session was great. While the public wasn’t involved all the details are available now (online in the March 5 council package).

It provides a good road map. It was an excellent day of collaboration with staff and council.

Being a fairly new council with some new people who want to set new directions, it certainly was a good opportunity.

Having staff there allowed them to say what they needed to say and to hear what they thought needed to be done in South Dundas was certainly good.

We’ve been busy. I’ve never seen a calendar as busy as the last two months.

I certainly wanted to make sure council was brought up to speed. Staff and council shared thoughts.

We didn’t agree on everything, but its important that council set the agenda somewhat and made sure that we’re, I’m not saying in charge, but people can know they elected a council to listen to them and to do work for them and to make sure the jobs that we think we need to get done, and get done eventually.

It’s been a good relationship so far. We’re not going to agree on everything.

In the end we need to make sure we as council is deciding on policy that works for all South Dundas. We’re not there yet. I have a long to-do list.

Setting budget as early as we could was good. It was a long session but council thought that was good. We had good discussions and we felt that we were playing a good part in determining where we are going in the next year.

Geraghty: From a budget stand point, from staff perspective, yes it was longer than what we’ve done in the past but I think staff got a lot out of it.

There was really some good discussion, not only for the short term but for the long term on how council is thinking.

I think the committee of the whole meetings with each department were crucial in allowing staff to showcase their department.

To show the new council what they do. Then they could take that information into the budget so they could put the pieces together.

Have we done a lot? I think we’ve got a lot more clear direction. Staff now know what needs to be done and they are going off and getting that stuff done. Getting us on the right path was the key.
We went through the budget slowly by department but when we got finished the department budget we knew where we stood. There was no confusion about direction. It was a nice breath of fresh air to have that clear direction going forward.

Staff enjoyed it.

What about those committee of the whole meetings?

Byvelds: I was serious about trying to make sure we as a new council got up to speed in every department as quickly as we could. And, it allowed us to have general discussions. It wasn’t like a council meeting which is more formal and boxed in. We said what we needed to say and we all participated. It’s better to know too much than not enough.

Geraghty: It was a lot of work but staff enjoyed just having the opportunity.

Ben was first up and he said, you know what? I really loved having this conversation. It was an opportunity for him to tell council everything he does and everything they’re working on. But also to hear from council on what their vision is. When he walked out of there he had a good idea about what was expected of him going forward.

What’s next?

Geraghty: Getting our water towers and landfills in check. Those are the two biggest issues that we still need to deal with that will have a long term impact going forward and we need to do it right.

Byvelds: On landfill we have new consultants needing time to come up with their work plans. No sense rushing into to something that’s as big as this without taking some time and getting the right information to come up with a plan that makes sense because things have changed.

Things have even changed from a perspective that the old council didn’t even know about. It’s got to be done right.

On the water towers, I’ve read the report. They are not going to fall down. There are issues and we need to do some renewal. We’re still seeing if we can get the OCIF funding top up for the one tower now. If we get that then that can accelerate the plan. If we don’t get the money then what’s plan B? We as council haven’t made that decision. We’re not there yet. We certainly haven’t swept them under the rug.

Final comments?

Byvelds: As busy as council has been, and as much as we have done, we still want to be part of the community.

We want to listen to any concern out there. If there are people who have ideas and want to do things in South Dundas, either through a committee or through us, we’re still open.

We don’t want to say we know it all.

We are all committed to listening and being open so email phone, we’re still there.

We’re all listening.

If we all work together as a council and as community we can get South Dundas moving forward to where we want to be in this term.

Geraghty: We genuinely make an effort to help people in this community.

We want people to be comfortable in calling us and reaching out to us. We’re here to help.

We’re here to help council by giving them the information they need to make the best decisions short term and long term for this community.

I know we’re not always viewed as the good guys but I think we have a really great staff that South Dundas can be proud of.

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